In this month’s Outside, Brad Melekian attempts to make sense of Andy Irons’ tragic death. The story depicts a tortured soul, someone who battled the demons of drugs, alcohol, and fame, eventually losing a month before his son was born. It’s a sad story, one without a solid conclusion as Irons’ cause of death remains unknown.
It’s also an article that only Melekian could land. He last wrote for the magazine more than two years ago, telling the tale of Kala Alexander, an enforcer for the Wolf Pack crew Irons hung with in the water and out. Melekain, a good surfer in his own right, had the contacts and respect to get the surfing world open up to him after Irons’ death.
As Outside has learned through interviews with dozens of friends, colleagues, and surf-industry professionals who were close to Irons, his problems were common knowledge in the insular world of pro surfing, but they were kept under wraps by an unspoken but understood code of public silence. After Irons’s death, several of these people decided it was time for the surf world to face facts.
Another writer wouldn’t have been able to score the interviews or get someone like Art Brewer, “the 59-year-old elder statesman of surf photography,” to admit that “[Irons] basically died on us, more than once.” The account is filled with anecdotes such as this one.
Melekian used his knowledge and access to paint an evenhanded portrait of Irons, his life, and what might have been going through his head during his last days. The result both touching and tragic, and ultimately – just like the subject’s surfing – almost perfect.