Bruce Lives – Bruce Irons Pro Spotlight

Requalified and humbled, now can he win?

Bruce Irons has had a crazy week. One day, he’s surfing the worst heat of his career at Pipeline, teetering on the edge of slipping off the world tour, and being asked by the surfing world, “what happened?” The next day, he’s having the best day of his life, surfing 25-foot Waimea with just a few friends, winning the Eddie Aikau Invitational (which is known as one of the world’s most prestigious surf contests), earning 55,000 dollars for about two hours of surfing, and beating his rival at the same time.

Bruce’s elation is marred by a small dark cloud on what was otherwise a perfect day. The realization that he may soon be trudging around the world on the WQS, surfing against a bunch of amping kids in mediocre waves for the next year, instead of traveling with the world’s best to the best locations is lingering in the back of his head. He’s about to fall off the ASP World Tour, something he’s been working toward his whole life is about to be pulled away from him, and there’s only one thing he can do about it-make the semi-finals of the Pipe Masters.

The Year In Heats

The story starts in February of 2004. His first event ever as a WCT surfer is upon him, and he chokes. He paddles out at Snapper Rocks in Australia and goes down in round two to local legend and ASP veteran Danny Wills. Here’s Bruce’s first 33rd place finish. Maybe it’s just nerves.

The second event comes around at Bells Beach. The surf world prepares for Bruce’s arrival. The world holds its breath and waits to see what the golden child will do. In rippable waves, Bruce goes down to Brazilian, Victor Ribas, another equal 33rd. “It’s okay; he’ll get ’em at Teahupo’o,” becomes the rallying cry for Bruce fans.

Teahupo’o starts, and the surf fans of the world are confident that Bruce is gonna smash it. It’s common knowledge that he rules Teahupo’o! If anyone can win it, he can. In a close heat, Bruce is edged out by Occy in the second round. Equal 33rd again. No problem-he’s just building momentum. Isn’t he?

Fiji. Of course Bruce will rip Fiji. Won’t he? Well, Mother Nature has other ideas-the waves go flat, Bruce doesn’t catch a wave until the last eight minutes of the heat, and he loses to Occy again. The contest is postponed due to poor conditions immediately after his heat. Bad luck begins.

J-Bay is up next. Bruce is again narrowly knocked out and handed another equal 33rd by Sunny Garcia. The surf world wonders, “what’s going on?”

Bruce scratches into the third round in Japan-an okay equal 17th result, but not one worthy of Bruce. Fans hope for a big push as the tour pushes on.

As Trestles comes around, Bruce’s fans line the beach, but where is he? He’s on his way home after the first day of competition. Mother Nature shit on him again. He only caught one wave, the ocean died, and Luke Egan knocked him out in the second round-33rd is the hardest word.

France comes, and Bruce makes the final! He’s battling older brother Andy and, more importantly, gets much needed second place points. The surfing world is relieved, but the question on everybody’s minds arises-will he make the tour next year?

At Mundaka, Bruce gets eliminated early again-this time in shitty surf. Now the realization sets in that one of the world’s best may not be on the World Tour next year.

The second-to-last event of the year is in Florianopolis, Brazil. Bruce breaks his losing streak and makes the third round under the shadow of Andy, who clinches his third world championship at the event. Mathematically, Bruce’s requalification isn’t looking good.

What Happenned?

“They probably want to know why I did so bad,” Bruce answers regarding the fans and the media mere days before the final WCT of the year, which will determine whether or not he requalifies. “I wish I could tell you. I guess I just had bad heats. The waves, conditions, a lot of bad stuff like that. For example, one heat at Trestles, there’s waves all day. Themy heat comes, I catch one wave, Luke gets two, and then no more waves break the whole heat. Little things like that. Like surfing a heat in terrible waves, then they cancel the contest right after my heat. I guess it was just bad luck. It happens to everybody, but it happened to me a lot this year.”

Calculations And Tribulations

Now it’s come to this. Bruce is sitting on the deck of the Red Bull house looking directly into the pit at Backdoor. His longtime girlfriend Mia is inside calculating Bruce’s chances of requalification. It’s the eve of the final day of the Pipe Masters. At this point, the numbers are saying Bruce needs to place equal fifth or higher to stay on tour, which means making the semifinals. He doesn’t seem nervous, which leads to the question, does he even care?

“So what’s the scenario right now?” I ask him. “Do you have to make your next heat to make the tour? I don’t want to put extra pressure on you or anything.””Actually, I don’t know what the scenario is right now,” he answers. “I just want to make the finals.” Then he gets back to his game of golf on the PlayStation 2.

An Unexpected Boost

Rewind to three days before his Pipe Masters results would decide his fate. Bruce surfed towards what would become the most prestigious contest win of his life. On December 15, 2004, Bruce Irons won the Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau contest in 25- to 30-foot waves, the biggest waves he’s ever surfed, and it’s only his third time ever surfing Waimea. The momentum he gained from a victory like that had to have played a role in his Pipe performance. If anything, the adrenalin and stoke had to have been pulsing hard up until his quarterfinal heat at the Pipe Masters.

“I surfed in the Pipe Masters first round the day before and had the worst heat of my surfing career. I got one wave-got a 1.0 or something. The heats before mine had such good waves. They were going off. Mine sucked,” Bruce recalls. “Then the next day I win the Eddie Aikau and get the biggest waves of my life. Right there everything’s changed, I totally erased that shitty heat at Pipe. It went from a terrible day one day to the best day of my life the next.”

One wave that stands out from the event was again ridden by Bruce. After a massive take-off on a giant wave, Bruce weaved to the inside of the Bay, a little spot known as Waimea Shorebreak. It should be called Hell Slabs Of Death, because of the guillotines of thick water that are created when a 30-foot face condenses itself onto dry sand. In pure stuntman form, Bruce pulled in, no handed, to a closeout the size of a two-story building. The crowd went berserk. “I was riding it in, thinking, ‘what am I gonna do on this one?'” Bruce laughs. “Sure enough I could hear the announcer going ‘is he gonna make it all the way?’ He was hyping it up, then it started reforming, so I just thought ‘f-k, I might as well just do it. I remember Mike Ho doing it a while back.'”

For all his efforts, Bruce took home 55,000 dollars, a koa surfboard considered priceless, and the pride of winning the world’s foremost big-wave riding event. “Winning the Eddie Aikau will never sink in for the rest of my life,” Bruce says. “I never ever thought, first of all, I would be in that event, and then to win it was like a dream.”

D-Day

The final day of the Pipe Masters comes, and Bruce is napping between heats on the couch. I ask his girlfriend Mia if he’s nervous. “I think a little bit,” she answers. “I know I am. I don’t want to have to go back on that tour (WQS). I know he can do it. It’s just really nerve-racking right now.”I ask what he has to do to make the tour.

“Well, at this point he has to get better than fifth place,” she answers nervously.

“He will,” I reply reasurringly. He has to. There’s too much riding on his shoulders for him to slip back into the relative obscurity of the WQS. The media needs his irreverent attitude and superhuman skill on tour. His sponsors don’t need him to be on tour, but they would be very, very relieved and happy if he was. And the tour as a whole needs him-his popularity has helped kickstart a renewed interest in pro surfing. In many circles he’s considered the best surfer in the world. What would the Winston Cup in NASCAR be without Dale Earnhart Jr.?

What would the NBA be without Koby?

As Bruce’s deciding heat hits the water, I watch with a small group of people perched on the roof of the Red Bull house. Blair Marlin (Bruce’s team manager from DC Shoes), his girlfriend Mia, and his mom all huddle together with crossed fingers, positive thoughts, and nervous smiles. Bruce starts off the heat strong with a sick barrel. His mom smiles and his girlfriend claps. Bruce’s second wave is a perfect ten. Again, smiles and claps.

As time winds down, the tense air lightens and grins start to grow on the faces of Bruce’s cheering squad. Beeeeeep! The horn blows, Bruce makes the tour, and the small gathering of friends sitting on the roof breath a collective sigh of relief. We’re not the only ones breathing easier. Bruce’s fans at the Volcom House are screaming with happiness. Surf media schmoes like myself are smiling wide, knowing the tour just got that much better, and fans of surfing in general are elated, knowing a title threat just crept back into the big leagues.

He made it, but can he really win it?

The question of can Bruce pull it together and win a world title is a can of worms in itself. It’s one thing to make the tour, and a whole different monster to actually win it. His older brother Andy is showing a dominance unseen since Slater’s reign, and he’s only two years older than Bruce. He’s in his prime, and no one is hungrier to knock Bruce down than he is.

Slater is still bloodthirsty and motivated. Taj Burrow needs a title. Joel Parkinson is nipping at Andy’s heels. Mick Fanning will be back and healthy in 2005. The rest of the Top 44, who all crave the kind of attention Bruce gets, would love nothing more than to knock him right off the tour. Their love/hate relationship and competitive fire toward each other often lead to fistfights.But is there a chance Bruce could take the title? The answer is yes. The name Bruce Irons, tour or not, is synonymous with extraordinary surfing. If fame and popularity decided the world tour, Bruce would be in the top three without a doubt. And now that he’s gotten a tough rookie year out of the way, his confidence and motivation have grown with each victory-and even more so with each disappointment. Now that Bruce knows the inner workings of the tour, there’s no telling the success he could have this year. Remember, our current and three-time world champ also had problems on his first year of tour; now Andy Irons has become the most dominant figure in our sport.

So can Bruce win a world title? “He’s gonna have to get by me first,” Andy laughs. “He has the ability, but there’re a lot of great surfers in the top five right now who are all gonna be psyching this year.”

All Signs Point To Yes

As the Magic 8 Ball says, all signs point to yes that Bruce can win a world title. The obstacles he faces are equal to the obstacles every other Top 44 surfer faces. Everyone wants the top spot, and no one’s cutting any slack to anyone. It might not happen this year, but in the years to follow, you can bet Bruce will be taking champagne showers with the best of them.

ur, but they would be very, very relieved and happy if he was. And the tour as a whole needs him-his popularity has helped kickstart a renewed interest in pro surfing. In many circles he’s considered the best surfer in the world. What would the Winston Cup in NASCAR be without Dale Earnhart Jr.?

What would the NBA be without Koby?

As Bruce’s deciding heat hits the water, I watch with a small group of people perched on the roof of the Red Bull house. Blair Marlin (Bruce’s team manager from DC Shoes), his girlfriend Mia, and his mom all huddle together with crossed fingers, positive thoughts, and nervous smiles. Bruce starts off the heat strong with a sick barrel. His mom smiles and his girlfriend claps. Bruce’s second wave is a perfect ten. Again, smiles and claps.

As time winds down, the tense air lightens and grins start to grow on the faces of Bruce’s cheering squad. Beeeeeep! The horn blows, Bruce makes the tour, and the small gathering of friends sitting on the roof breath a collective sigh of relief. We’re not the only ones breathing easier. Bruce’s fans at the Volcom House are screaming with happiness. Surf media schmoes like myself are smiling wide, knowing the tour just got that much better, and fans of surfing in general are elated, knowing a title threat just crept back into the big leagues.

He made it, but can he really win it?

The question of can Bruce pull it together and win a world title is a can of worms in itself. It’s one thing to make the tour, and a whole different monster to actually win it. His older brother Andy is showing a dominance unseen since Slater’s reign, and he’s only two years older than Bruce. He’s in his prime, and no one is hungrier to knock Bruce down than he is.

Slater is still bloodthirsty and motivated. Taj Burrow needs a title. Joel Parkinson is nipping at Andy’s heels. Mick Fanning will be back and healthy in 2005. The rest of the Top 44, who all crave the kind of attention Bruce gets, would love nothing more than to knock him right off the tour. Their love/hate relationship and competitive fire toward each other often lead to fistfights.But is there a chance Bruce could take the title? The answer is yes. The name Bruce Irons, tour or not, is synonymous with extraordinary surfing. If fame and popularity decided the world tour, Bruce would be in the top three without a doubt. And now that he’s gotten a tough rookie year out of the way, his confidence and motivation have grown with each victory-and even more so with each disappointment. Now that Bruce knows the inner workings of the tour, there’s no telling the success he could have this year. Remember, our current and three-time world champ also had problems on his first year of tour; now Andy Irons has become the most dominant figure in our sport.

So can Bruce win a world title? “He’s gonna have to get by me first,” Andy laughs. “He has the ability, but there’re a lot of great surfers in the top five right now who are all gonna be psyching this year.”

All Signs Point To Yes

As the Magic 8 Ball says, all signs point to yes that Bruce can win a world title. The obstacles he faces are equal to the obstacles every other Top 44 surfer faces. Everyone wants the top spot, and no one’s cutting any slack to anyone. It might not happen this year, but in the years to follow, you can bet Bruce will be taking champagne showers with the best of them.