Don’t call it a comeback, because Andy Irons has been here before. Nineteen times, in fact, to go along with three world titles.
But Irons’ 20th win of the world tour might be not only the sweetest but also the most defining moment of his career.
After taking a one-year sabbatical from the world tour due to burnout and a much-needed year of personal growth, Irons has stormed back, taking out the Billabong Pro for his 20th career victory on the world tour and skyrocketing up the world tour rankings to seventh place.
The future once again is looking awfully bright for Irons, who struggled early in the year, looking to regain the form that helped him win world titles three consecutive years from 2002 to 2004. Now, at a more mature age of 32, one can only assume that Irons is ready for one more charge for a world title – most likely next year, but one never knows when talking about a naturally competitive and gifted surfer like Irons; it might just happen this year.
Either way, this year’s world title race is certainly heating up, with Kelly Slater placing equal third, falling to Irons in the semifinals. He now finds himself in the No. 2 position, only 250 points behind current world tour leader Jordy Smith and heading into what is considered to be Slater’s home court event at the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles from Sept. 12 to 18.
Now is the time of the year that Slater really begins to hit his stride coming down the stretch, and you can bet that Smith is feeling the pressure now. But one can count on the ever-competitive Smith, who has the entire repertoire to win in any condition. My advice? Just sit back and enjoy this year’s world title race, because after Slater collects the hardware at Lowers and his 10th world title; he just might ride off into the sunset.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@AlohaSchoolofSurfing.com.