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‘His heart is in the ocean’

  • COURTESY OF DARRYL NAGAO, HIC
    A memorial service for Andy Irons, who died Tuesday, was held before the HIC Pro at Sunset Beach yesterday.
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It seemed like the ocean was mourning the untimely passing of Andy Irons with the Vans Presents the HIC Pro at Sunset Beach yesterday. Scattered showers, overcast skies, choppy conditions and 16- to- 20-foot wave face heights matched the mood of the 4-star Qualifying Series event.

"It was a very somber mood," said Jason Shibata, about the vibe at Sunset Beach for the last contest of the 2010 ASP Hawaii season yesterday morning. "To kickoff the winter season with this event and to know that Andy is not here is really sad.

"We know Andy is here — his heart is in the ocean," said Shibata, who was on the Billabong surf team with Irons. "Being out at Sunset (yesterday) morning, caddying for some of the boys, you could feel the ocean is really alive and has a lot of emotion, just like everybody on the beach."

Before the start of the contest, a memorial service was held for Andy Irons, who was found dead in a Texas hotel room Tuesday. Irons was a long time team rider for Hawaiian Island Creations and won this event in 1997.

Kahu Butch Helemano led the Hawaiian service and reminded those in attendance that Hawaiians talk about the deceased in the present tense as opposed to the past. Competitors, contest staff and spectators held hands in a large circle around one of Irons’ surfboards that had a portrait of the three-time world champ.

Nearly every heat yesterday at the HIC Pro had a competitor or board caddy paddle out with a lei to pay tribute to Andy Irons.

It wasn’t easy to put on a contest jersey and compete in a surf contest with the loss of a close friend still fresh in their minds, said Kalani Robb.

"(Andy) would want us to keep doing our thing and going out there and charging, but it’s a bummer and feels like it shouldn’t have happened," Robb said. "He was the best surfer from Hawaii — guaranteed."

On a day like yesterday, when conditions are challenging and the weather is ugly, surfers normally don’t hang out at the contest site for very long, yet it was different scene at the HIC Pro.

Competitors and non-competitors hung out in the Sunset Beach parking lot well into the evening.

Almost every handshake was followed by a hug, and it seemed like everybody in the surfing tribe wanted to be close to one another yesterday.

"It’s a sad day for everybody," said 2000 World Champ Sunny Garcia. "(Andy Irons) was like my brother … it’s definitely not going to be the same without him."

For the surfing community, it’s heart-wrenching to know that one of the greatest Hawaiian surfers to ever ride a board will never physically be with them again.

"I wish we would remember Andy for being a great brother, great son, great friend and he would have been a great father, and not remember what some of the media is trying to portray," said Garcia. "He was a great person and I think that’s how he should be remembered."

 

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