Plenty of tears: Fellow surfers and admirers link hands yesterday at Puerto Rico in memory of Andy Irons.
Plenty of tears: Fellow surfers and admirers link hands yesterday at Puerto Rico in memory of Andy Irons. Kelly Cestari

Farewell to a surfing champion

TWEED Heads icon Mick Fanning said he hadn't just lost a friend in Hawaiian surfing legend Andy Irons, he lost a brother.

The reigning two-time world champion was among mourners joined at the hand yesterday to commemorate the death of former three-time world champion Irons.

The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), sponsors and surfers alike, unanimously decided to call a lay day at the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico yesterday to pay their respects to the 32-year-old livewire.

A paddle-out memorial service was held on-site in Porta Del Sol, attended by the world's best surfers and hundreds of admirers, and Fanning was honoured to be a part of it. “It was good having the paddle-out, getting everyone together,” the 29-year-old said.

“We're a surfing family. We all look out for each other.

“Just for us to paddle out and show our respects to Andy, to his family, to all his friends on Kauai and Hawaii, it's good.

“We are all hurting right now and we're just wanting to pay our respects.”

Irons withdrew from competition early, citing illness, and was en route back home to Kauai, Hawaii, when he passed away.

His death sent shockwaves through the international sporting community and Fanning said he was still coming to terms with the loss of such a unique character and human being.

“It's hard to take. Andy was incredible,” Fanning said. “I think he was a person who always wore his heart on his sleeve.

“He didn't try to impress anyone. He was just all about what he wanted to do.

“He was an amazing competitor; he was an amazing friend. But I haven't just lost a friend, I've lost my brother here.”

Event organizers reconvened overnight to discuss a possible start time this morning when nine-time world champion Kelly Slater will look to wrap up his 10th world title. The 38-year-old American must also first overcome the shock loss of Irons.

Irons was one of the few men to usurp Slater when he won his three world titles consecutively from 2002-04, and the pair shared a unique love-hate relationship.

“Everyone had their own connection with Andy on so many different levels,” Slater said.

“You know, Andy was a pretty dynamic guy. He could be fierce in the water, the nicest guy on land, or anything in-between.

“I'm going to have a million different memories of AI.

“It was nice for everyone to be together to have a chance to talk about him, about our memories ... a little laugh, a little cry.”

When competition resumes, up first will be Australian Taj Burrow against Hawaiian rookie Dusty Payne.

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