A striking silhouette in the pale light? A life metaphor! Oakley/Hennings
Bruce Irons, But Not Serious
Bruce Irons' effervescence is enduring. Stab adores surfing's last rockstar. He lost his brother Andy in 2010 and, for a time, became disenchanted with this strange old thing we call life, but now he's towing into Chopes waves that are quite literally illegal (just ask the French government), getting lost in Mexico and taking wildcard slots at Balinese world tour events. Sure, the Bruce we were hoping to see in the airspace above Keramas didn't quite show up, but he still hit the black sand with the charisma and affability he's always oozed. Especially after hours, when your Stab correspondent stole away some of his time. Feels like we've read too many gloomy heart-to-hearts with Bruce in recent times (to which we've contributed), so this breezy conversation is a very nice swing of the flag.
Interview by Craig Jarvis
Stab: So, what do you wanna talk about? I don’t know what to ask you, to be honest.
You talk. No. You must ask the questions.
Lets talk about, uh, how does it feel, uh… Doesn’t it suck having to think of questions to ask me?
It does. It sucks. (Laughs). What new question could you possibly think up? Are there any new questions out there? Questions are done.
I’m going to think of something now. Ha, come on. I’m waiting.
Derek Hynd? Oh Derek, he’s an eccentric one.
Want to come over to J-Bay? Fuck yeah. I love J-Bay. First surf trip I ever went on to was South Africa, when I was 15.
Tell me about it. I missed the last couple of days of school and went on a trip there with Shawn Briley and Pancho. Met up with Frankie (Oberholzer) and Byron (Howarth). First day I got there we surfed New Pier six-to-eight feet. It was fucking draining. Going off. Then we drove 14 hours to the Transkei, it was before GPS and we had maps. It was cool. I’m scared of sharks, but it was my first surf trip and I didn’t know shit about… shit. They were telling us not to surf in amongst the sardines and not to surf river mouths, and sure enough we go to Breezy Point. The sardines are running, there’s a river mouth, there’s one hut on the beach and these guys are just catching sharks off the beach. On day three I was out there by myself and I went over this wave and then I saw this fucking huge fin coming straight in. I ran in over the water, man. I was so freaked out. A year later someone got eaten alive there.
Australian guy, called Mark Penches. That’s right. Still, the whole Transkei thing was a really cool experience.
How did it finish? We drove back to Durban and then flew back down to J-Bay for a swell. Derek was there. Derek came to Hawaii and stayed with us, me my dad and my brother, when I was like 13 years old. He’s an old friend. So I got to surf J-Bay for the first time when I was 15. I’d watched that place on video so much growing up. Y'know, Tom Curren, The Search, that sort of stuff. On one day it was just me and Briley. Briley even surfed in trunks.
If you look at your career right now one could say that, from fairly recent Teahupoo visuals, you’re focusing on big waves. How does it feel surfing a wave like Keramas? Look. I’m not the big wave guy. Well, if I'm there I’ll do it, but I don’t chase it like Twig and all of those guys. Fuck man, I’m scared of those big waves.
That wave you got during Code Red, you didn’t look too scared. Well, shit. I didn’t know what was behind me! I suppose when you’re in the situation it’s a different story. The adrenalin is going, but when I think about it, it’s like yeah, I’m scared. As I said, when it’s in the moment, when there’s a whole lot of excitement and adrenalin and jet skies and ropes, you just kinda go with the moment.
And when it’s, like, three feet? It’s definitely harder to surf these contests.
You still enjoy surfing these kinda waves? Oh yeah, I’m a real fan of these kinds of waves. I love these waves. I live for this stuff. It’s great to surf a barreling wave. Thing is, it's easier surfing bigger waves. Surfing these sorts of waves takes a lot more skill.
I get it. These guys surfing here at Keramas are such athletes, y'know. I guess the big wave surfers are also full-on athletes. I don’t know what I’m saying (laughs).
Now we come to the pointy end of the interview. You thought of some good stuff to ask me now? Bring it.
What irritates you in the surfing world? What irritates me in the surfing world is egos and crowds, as well as serious localism. If you show people respect, you should be able to expect to get respect back, in and out of the water. I’m respectful everywhere I go. I don’t like those people that make things uncomfortable.
You’re Bruce Irons. Does anyone ever tell you to fuck off? Yes, they've done that. They’re telling me to fuck off but they’re the ones dropping in on me. I come from a localised spot so I know the rules, y'know. You don’t show respect, you’re going to get your ass handed to you. I think I was told to fuck off more when I was younger. These days I do get a lot of love when I travel.
Which person in the surfing world really irritates you? I really irritate myself. John John also really irritates me because he is so fucking good.
Is he the most talented surfer? No. He’s not the most talented surfer. He’s just really good 'cause he grew up skateboarding.
So, who's the most talented surfer? Well, it’s pretty obvious that Kelly is the all time machine with every talent. John is very talented but has lots to learn. In time he’s going to be able to do it all. For pure enjoyment I enjoy watching John John surfing and I enjoy watching Dane Reynolds surfing. They’re both totally unpredictable and exciting.
People say they can see your brother in John John. That he might have picked up some nuances from Andy. I see more of Jamie O'Brien. John is like a polished JOB. Jamie is radical. He has radical shit, and he pulls off radical stuff, but he’s a little bit more all over the place. John John has the same approach with a more relaxed style.
So who is it then? Who is the surfer who reminds you most of your brother? Anyone? Fuck no. There will never be any one like my brother. Actually, maybe his son, maybe Axel will be like Andy.