Yesterday was the first day of Andy Irons’ six-year, seven-digit contract with Billabong, his new clothing sponsor. On his way to catch a plane to Tavarua, Andy stopped by TransWorld accompanied by DC Team Manager Blair Marlin and Billabong Team Manager Steve Clark to press some palms and kiss some proverbial babies. Andy was being shown off by Clark, who declared: “I can finally claim it: we have the best surf team in the world.”
Andy seemed unaffected by the hype. His sights are set on a world title, and everything else is just corporate background noise. He was calm and somewhat serious when we sat down to do a short interview.
TWS: What leads up to making the decision to change sponsors? Did it have a lot to do with the people at Billabong?
Andy Irons: Yeah, I was definitely looking at their team, and the way they take care of their team looked really good. Michael Thompson was really good to me over at MCD¿he always has been, and I will always be grateful for that. But Billabong just has a little more structure going on.
TWS: Does your contract stipulate that you have to win a world title?
AI: don’t have to, but it’s in there. I want to win a world title for myself.
TWS: Do you get a bonus if you do win?
AI: Yeah, definitely. A nice bonus, so hopefully it comes together.
TWS: How do the money negotiations go when you’re putting together a contract with a new sponsor? Do lawyers do it?
AI: I have my dad and uncle take care of all my management. I just put my two cents in about what I want to do. They deal with all the numbers, and I pretty much just go surfing. I leave it to them to worry about.
TWS: You mentioned that Billabong’s team influenced your decision to ride for them.
AI: Yeah, they have a rad team. I’ve always looked up to guys like Occy and Luke Egan¿just watching all their killer videos in the past. The team is there, and a lot of those guys are my friends. So that’s another plus.
TWS: Will having a new sponsor motivate you to surf a lot of contests?
AI: There is a competitive side to my contract, but at the same time Billabong has a killer freestyle program. They have the best movies in the industry, I think. The freesurfing aspect is killer¿photo trips and videos. I get to have fun with that kind of stuff. Billabong has trips going all the time; they call me and ask where I want to go, what I want to do. It’s pretty nice.
TWS: Sunset is the last WCT event left this year, and you’re one of eight guys who could theoretically win the world title by winning the contest. Do you think you can you win at Sunset?
AI: I can try, yeah. I’m definitely a lot more confident than guys like Armando Daltro. I’m not too cocky, but hopefully it all comes together. I’ve surfed that place more than most people on the 44. Hopefully it pays off.
Blair Marlin: Who’s your biggest competition out there?
AI: Sonny Garcia, for sure. He won the event last year. Taylor Knox will do really well. He surfs really well¿at a place like Sunset he carves better than anyone in the world. I think C.J. will be going for it, too.
Blair: Where’s Occy ranked right now?
AI: He’s second, and Taylor is fourth. Occy, Taylor, and Sonny are the favorites in my book.
TWS: What kind of spin do you think Kelly coming back is going to put on the Tour?
AI: I think it’s cool; I can’t wait to watch him surf again. He will make some kind of spark. He’s probably motivated, and it’s probably been a while since he’s surfed heats, but I think he’ll get right back in the groove again. Guaranteed you’ll get some sparks.
TWS: What do you think motivates him to come back?
AI: I don’t know. Maybe he’s bored sitting at home, bored of traveling. He’s a competitive guy, he won six world titles. Michael Jordan came back, too, so it’s a pretty cool time. It’s a big comeback year.