I didn't like Andy Irons much. I thought he was a sore loser, too highly strung and too full of himself. And I wasn't alone in holding that opinion. But nobody would dare deny that he was an incredibly driven athlete and a fantastic surfer. He continued to drive the change in competition surfing that was started by Kelly Slater years before.
I still think that the most intense comp I remember taking notice of was Pipe in 2005(?). The world title had come down to the last event of the season and A.I. beat Slater to win his 3rd world title in a row. I think he also won one of his 4 triple crowns that year too. But it wasn't 3 worlds in a row or 4 triple crowns where Andy inspired, it was in the way he never backed down and whenever he wanted something he did whatever was needed to get it.
Some of the steepest, heaviest waves in the world caused the greatest to sit back and evaluate the situation but it seemed as though Andy was always at the front of the line, hanging to drop into something big. I could count on one hand those talented and loco enough to do that day in- day out. So it's very grounding to see someone so in tune with big risks go down to something as simple as a mosquito borne virus. I looked at Andy as someone almost unbreakable so something like this makes you re-assess mortality. A sombre experience.