The 2010 Billabong Pro Tahiti Champion and former Three Time World Champ opens up about his victory at Teahupo'o, his secret to surfing against Slater—and unlike in years past—his tame victory party.—Justin Coté
TransWorld SURF: What's up Andy, how are ya?
Andy Irons: I'm exhausted. I got sick right after coming home from Tahiti—I think all the emotions and everything finally caught up with me.
Well congratulations on the big win—we were all really stoked for you.
Right on man, I couldn't believe it!
Even though the waves weren't what we were all hoping for, it was fun and exciting to watch.
Yeah, that's the same shit I grew up surfing—thousands and thousands of days just like that at a spot here on Kauai. It was like I was surfing at home that day.
At what point did you think you had a shot at winning the whole thing?
I didn't think I had a shot until the final horn blew when I was surfing against CJ in the final. Every heat I made I was psyched just to be where I was. My heat with Wilko [Matt Wilkinson] was so tight, he came real close to getting the score he needed. It seemed like every heat I surfed was like that, like the one against Mick was crazy, I needed a 6.2 and got it right at the end.
After a couple tight losses, you were bound to catch a break eventually.
Yeah I finally got the break I'd been looking for all year. Right there in the heat against Mick, things just started happening for me.
I read on Parko's blog that you have been working with his trainer, Wes Berg. How did that come about?
I started working out with him about a year ago. Last year at about this time I was like 200lbs. and hadn't been surfing much. Thinking it was gonna be big, I was kinda sketched going into the Teahupo'o contest but it turned out to be small so I was fine. Anyway, I started talking to Joel [Parkinson] about how fit he was and asked what Wes had done for him and eventually Parko said it was cool if I took up training with him—he said it wouldn't take away from him at all and he'd be stoked to work out with me.
So you flew Wes to Tahiti?
Yeah. We trained the whole week and a half leading up to the contest every single day. I was living in Australia for six months earlier this year and I was training with Wes and Parko but kinda half-assed it and didn't take it as serious as I should have. So after I lost on the Gold Coast and wasn't surfing very well, I got serious about it [training] and started surfing every single day and by the time Bells came around, I felt like I was surfing pretty good. My year really didn't start though until Brazil, where, even though I got last, I felt like I was surfing twice as good as the beginning of the year.
Yeah, it seems like you've made steps in the right direction every event.
Definitely. The first contest I was slow, out of it, and kinda chubby. I showed up and saw how serious everyone was but it was kinda too late already, the year had already started.
Let's talk about your winning board. I understand it was buckled in two places?
Yeah, the "Green Machine" from JS—it's wild. I picked it up on the Gold Coast but it was meant for California. I was gonna ride it at the Trestles contest, and even wrote "Cali" on the boardbag it was in, but it ended up in Tahiti. Anyway, I rode it the first day I was there surfing with Roy [Powers] and Dusty [Payne] and buckled it in two places; one under my front foot and one up near the Billabong sticker—it still worked really good though. As the contest was going on, the conditions got kinda tricky and I didn't want to ride a buckled board. But then the final day came up and I was like, 'This is it, it's now or never to ride this board.' It came down to turns and barrels and I knew the board could do both really well—it's the perfect "in-between" model.
Are you bringing the “Green Machine” to Trestles?
Nah, it's got those big buckles and is pretty trashed…it's getting hung on the wall though. It's in my bedroom right now; I brought it home and put it right in there.
Yeah, treat that thing right!
Yeah man, that thing… that thing is my dream maker—it really made my dreams come true.
Regarding your heat against Kelly in the semifinals, what was that like?
Kelly? Everyone freaks out when they draw Kelly, but he's just another human, but people seem to wig out when they get him in a heat. He's the man, a nine-time world champ, but he's just another competitor and can have a bad heat like anyone else. As far as the heat itself, I was stoked it went for so long with no waves—the fewer opportunities he has the better it is for me. I knew a restart [when no waves come through in a heat it restarts after 15 minutes] was close so I caught a wave just so he had to keep going. If it was gonna come down to one wave, I'd rather take the 50/50 chance of me getting it than having him a chance at a couple ten point rides. And it worked out—I got a 9 something an as time ran out he wasn't able to get a score.
What was the victory party like? Tamer than in years past?
Haha! Yeah, waaaay different. I'm a different person than when I was having blowouts for days on end after winning. Just after the final I went to the Teahupo'o marina for the awards ceremony and got to hang out with the Maoni family whom I used to stay with back in the day. It was really cool too because it was Papi Maoni's birthday.
Knowing Papi he must have been really stoked for you.
Yeah, I gave him the jersey I wore in the final and had CJ sign it, too. I gave away a bunch of hats and shades at the ceremony, hopped on a jet ski to my house on the point, packed up, and went to the Beachcomber for a few hours where I had a killer room on the water and had dinner and watched the fire dancer show with Occy, Luke [Egan], Freddy P., and a few of the boys. After that I hopped onto the plane and woke up in Hawaii.
Yeah it was. When I got home I had 48 unread text messages. My voicemail was filled up and Lyndie [Andy's wife] told me there were a bunch of emails for me, too. Pretty wild stuff.
With Lowers and the European leg of the tour coming up, what are some things you feel you need to work on?
I just need to surf more! For me, the more I surf, the better I surf and if I'm not in the water much I won't surf very well. Lately I've been surfing and training every single day. For guys like Sunny [Garcia] and Kelly, they can not surf for a month, paddle out, and not miss a beat. But I'm just an average guy, I gotta be out there all the time to stay sharp.
Now that you're in the top 10 are you thinking about a fourth World Title?
No, no, no, and no. Not at all.
So that's a no?
Listen, I came back onto the tour just to re-qualify and get my feet sturdy. At the beginning of the year, everyone was like, 'When are you going to get your feet under sturdy? Are you feeling stronger?' Now that I've won an event, people are asking me if I'm gonna win a world title. It's a really wide gap between qualifying and winning a world title. I'm in seventh right now, which is amazing; I can't even believe I'm in the top 10! I wasn't sure I'd ever win a contest again—it didn't seem like it was in the cards, like maybe I had my run of wins, and maybe I'll get a quarterfinal or even a semi. But five events in and I got a win—I still can't believe it! It was radical, once I knew I'd won, I really wanted to be alone for a little while so I paddled outside the lineup to have a minute by myself and I got all teary-eyed but then the jet skis started swarming all around me. I haven't really had time to enjoy it yet—I wish Trestles was a few weeks later so I could have a little more time to enjoy the moment but it's time to put the jersey back on and get back out there. It's a good thing though—hopefully I'll be able to keep the momentum from the last contest.