This portrait of 5 time world champion surfer Andy Irons in Teahupoo Tahiti, a few years before his tragic death, has a very special place in my heart. I photographed Andy for an advertorial spread for Max Magazine France and Billabong Surfwear, capturing some of the best surfers in the world at the Triple Crown Of Surfing on the North Shore of Hawaii and then in Teahupoo Tahiti for the Billabong Pro.
I was ecstatic when I heard we would be working with Andy Irons. At the time he was the face of Billabong and arguably the world’s most exciting surfer. My fashion editor Fabrice Leonard had the idea to put Andy in an open tuxedo jacket and shirt with his signature “Andy Argyle” Billabong board shorts underneath. Andy loved the idea and we started to shoot. The sun slowly slipped under the horizon creating what’s known as the “Golden Hour,” a period of time after the sun goes down but before it gets dark. I love working in this light because it’s so soft and the sky usually takes on an etherial blend of warm and cool pastel hues.
As we worked I asked Andy about his life in Kauai Hawaii. He told me he and his girlfriend had just built a new house and she was back in Hawaii working on the decorations. I said, “So you guys are serious?” Andy flashed a big smile and said, “Yeh that’s my lady, I don’t know what I’d do without her, she’s awesome.” I said, “That’s great you found someone special, that’s the dream huh?” Andy replied, “I’m a really lucky guy.” I think that sums up Andy; big smile, big love, big waves, and he knew how lucky he was to be living his dreams.
The next time you’re at a good surfing spot, as the sun dips behind the crashing waves, rays light reflecting off the water, if you look hard, if you squint your eyes and look out beyond the breakers, you can see Andy paddling hard, charging into the lineup, ready to rip it to shreds.
PHILIP ANDREW “ANDY” IRONS July 24, 1978 – November 2, 2010
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