A.I. Kauai Memorial – A Tribute to a Kauai Legend

I’ve only lived on Kauai for six years, and yet the Irons’ family is one of the most famous because of all the surfing fame they have brought to the island. Today there was a truly moving tribute to one of the greatest surfing legends who has ever lived. It was a picture perfect day on Kauai.

Below is a small video clip of today’s happening as hundreds of surfers from around the world paddled out in Hanalei Bay in tribute to Andy. Below is another heartfelt tribute from my friend Andy Melamed, a long time Hanalei resident, which appeared in today’s newspaper. AI—RIP—We Love You…

Heartfelt Remembrance—Kaua’i has a spirit of its own

In the mid to late 60’s, Kaua’i attracted a breed of surfer who was attracted to, and embraced such a spirit. Kaua’i featured a variety of waves, no traffic lights, ever-changing wind and weather conditions, flooding roads, as well as a sense of freedom and adventure.

Things were simple. There were a few very small movie theaters, no real shopping centers, one bowling alley, and one traffic light in the middle of a cane field. Kids grew up in and around the ocean, with a spirit that permeated their souls. The beauty of this island instills a beauty in its people…and such was the case with the younger generation that pushed the envelope while riding her waves.

In the mid to late 70’s, surfing magazines pushed surfers to venture around the globe. While on Kaua’i, many surf spots found young riders pushing the limits on every wave. The freedom found at every sandbar pushed these young riders beyond belief.

The contest scene back then was limited, costly, regimented, and controlled. All those things worked against the young upstart Kaua’i surfer who had no monetary backing. Laird Hamilton was an exception. Yet, he gained his bravado by shunning contests, and performing basically with a “sky’s the limit” approach to life at sea that was nurtured here on our Garden Island.

As the sport continued to grow, a generation of kids from Kaua’i received enough support to strut their stuff. Keala Kennelly and Rochelle Gordines Ballard each represented our island well, competitively with style, grace, and a fearless freedom.

And then the boys took hold. Andy Irons, his brother Bruce, Dustin Barca, Roy Powers, and a plethora of talent was fed with that Kaua’i spirit that bled down from the mountains, and flowed across our shoreline.

The crew was ready for some grandstand maneuvers, however, they did not adjust well to the confinements of timed heats, and penalties. Back then quantity was regarded more so than quality.

That was something our Kaua’i boys did not understand.

They had to make adjustments if they wished to be become World Champions. The one most competitive lad within the pack, the one that got “sick and tired” of not making it past quarterfinals, was Andy Irons.

Then one day, his Kaua’i fire rose to the surface, and with Dave Riddle’s words ringing in his ears, he learned to “surf bad waves good.” Andy also decided to “give the judges what they want!”

He did so with a flare like no other.

Andy brought the Sport of Kings, a championship crown, back to where it belonged for three consecutive years. He brought it to the high tide line on Weke Road and Pine Trees, where he rode the waves regardless of conditions.

He brought it back to where he pushed himself deeper and higher and quicker, with more power, more speed, and more grace.

Andy Irons represented Kaua’i, he also inspired a younger generation to do well, showing them that anything is possible if you meld your heart, body, and soul in the right direction—regardless of the circumstances.

In 2006, Andy was put to the test. He found himself needing two excellent scoring waves amounting to over 18 combined points to overcome Kelly Slater. There was but eight minutes remaining, and then all of a sudden, things began to click inside and out.

And he took advantage of the situation.

In less than eight remaining minutes, it was world champion, Kelly Slater, who found himself combo’d, and relegated to second place in the most prestigious Pipemasters.

Andy Irons had willed himself a victory over some insurmountable odds.

At the conclusion of probably this most exciting heat in competitive surf history, I found myself screaming with joy, embraced by my kids and wife, while on the beach at Pipeline.

His performance made me a kid again, so full of life that I was tingling for hours.

About four months later, I mentioned that to him, then I gave him some advice. I told him I thought he made his maneuvers look too easy, too graceful, and that maybe he should grimace and twist through each barrel. I jested it might get him an extra half point when the chips were down.

We laughed, because we both realized that while that might be the case, that mentioning such a thing here on the North Shore of Kaua’i, where there has never been room for posers, was the biggest cosmic joke of all.

The surf gods looked down upon us that day, and they had a great chuckle.

And now Andy has joined them. Looking down upon us at a time that we all have trouble comprehending. Until that is, it’s time for us to join him, with his ever-glowing smile as wide as a whale.

He is all around us, and yet he will always be missed.

Andy Melamed, Hanalei

Ron Margolis—Realtor on the island of Kauai—the true home of Andy Irons.

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