‘He won that high on coke and pills’
IN perhaps the most shocking scene of Andy Irons: Kissed By God, a documentary into the life and tragic death of the surfing champion, you witness the Hawaiian star winning a world tour event while clearly under the influence of drugs.
As Irons surfs his way to victory against the world's best in front of officials, sponsors and fans in Chile, the physical signs of his substance abuse are unmistakeable.
"He was f***ed up for that whole event," Iron's brother Bruce says. "He's surfing his heats, barely making it out on time, coming in, guys are just high fiving him and also high fiving stickers on his wetsuit with big bags of blow. He won that contest high on coke and pills, like no big deal, and, you know what, that wasn't the first or last event he won high."
A tightly-kept secret that continued to be covered up in the aftermath of the 32-year-old's death in 2010, Irons' battle with addiction - most notably to the opiod OxyContin - is laid bare in the near two-hour feature on his journey from Kauai grommet to Kelly Slater's fiercest rival.
Irons remains a legend in the surfing world, both for his incredible ability - he's really the only man who went head to head with Slater at his peak and regularly prevailed - and his every man touch.
He won three consecutive world titles from 2002-04 and could conquer any wave. And while the documentary honours these moments the filmmakers, guided by Bruce and Irons' wife Lyndie, also shine a light on his darkest moments.
The night of his 21st birthday when he flatlined for eight minutes in Indonesia after snorting a line of morphine after bingeing on Jack Daniels.
How he went missing for three days immediately after his wedding. Or the time Lyndie found her "dying, heroin husband" laying on a mattress with no sheet or blanket "barely alive".
"His personality was filled with severe highs, lows and depression," Lyndie told People. "The opioids were really scary. I saw his whole life change - his body change, his face change - everything changed when he got addicted to opiates, and that was hard."
Irons was found dead in a Dallas hotel room on November 2, 2010. An autopsy revealed his heart had stopped because of a blockage in a main artery, but there were also traces of a cocktail of drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine.
He had been attempting to travel back to Hawaii after an event in Puerto Rico but - as you hear him explain himself in a chilling voicemail left on Lyndie's phone - was unable to board the flight from Dallas because he was vomiting.
It stunned the surfing world - which certainly wasn't unaware of his problems - because it came during a period of his life where he appeared to be getting back on track.
But Irons was never able to kick the habit, which he used to self-medicate a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder, and no one was ever able to truly reach him.
The film isn't a finger-pointing exercise except when Bruce - who makes no secret of his own drug use - turns the spotlight on the brothers themselves.
"Everyone wants to blame somebody," he says. "They never want to accept the fact that me and my brother were big f***ing monsters. Believe it or not, we were manipulative in getting what we wanted, especially if it came to drugs. You know, you start getting into heavy f***ing addiction with these pills. I know that was ruling my life, and I know it was ruling my brother's life, too."
Andy Irons: Kissed By God is screening in select cinemas in Australia, starting August 17.