HANALEI, Kauai >> Several thousand friends and family members converged on Hanalei Bay today to celebrate the life of surfer Andy Irons, including several hundred who joined a midday paddle-out. There were tears, cheers, tears and more cheers for the 30 minutes or so that fellow surfers surrounded the Irons ohana on the water, in the middle of the bay, as the legendary surfer’s ashes were sprinkled.
The 32-year-old, three-time pro world champion (2002-04) was found dead Nov. 2 in a Dallas hotel room while en route back to Hawaii from a contest in Puerto Rico. He had left the contest, complaining of symptoms that may have been related to dengue fever.
“It’s unbelievable, every heart and soul that is here on Kauai,” Phil Irons said. “This is 10 times bigger than we expected.”
Fellow surfers united in his memory across the globe, from Australia to Israel.
“He’s one of the guys who guided the way for us,” pro surfer Makua Rothman, 26, said. “Someone who gave us the inspiration.”
The start of the pro tour season was postponed so fellow surfers could attend the memorial service.
“In respect for such a great person, a titan of the sport, we have a lei day for Andy,” Rothman said. “Andy-them were in the division above me. We had the same coach, the same sponsors. We looked up to him. He had a soul of gold.”
The paddle-out at Hanalei Bay was excruciating and cathartic for many, including old friends who choked back tears as they marched along a line of ti plants to the water. One of them was Dino Hawelu, 39, who remembered Irons as a young phenom shredding away.
“What got me was coming in (to Hanalei), the bridge on the sign,” Hawelu said, referring to a hand-made “We (heart) you, Irons ohana” sign, one of dozens posted roadside from Lihue to Waipa.
“It’s almost not real,” he recalled thinking. “We’re going to Andy’s funeral.”