“No Matter How Good It Is, It Doesn’t Bring My Brother Back”
The greatest surf tragedy ever made, “Andy Irons: Kissed By God” offers clarity for AI fans, but not closure for those who loved him.
When the house lights came up in the theater, the crowd of surf and entertainment industry players, family friends, and media gathered to see the first screeners of Andy Irons: Kissed By God looked ghostly, pale. Shaken.
Several times before the evening we’d been reminded that the occasion was not to be a celebratory one.
No open bar. No table service or VIP. This was not the time for a party.
The film Teton Gravity Research, Steve and Todd Jones, and Enich Harris had brought us here to see was not a happy story, nor even a redemptive one. But the story—which is masterfully produced—had felt like a true one, and like many true stories it offered no closure, no moral lesson, no neatly-tied bow.
“I don’t know if I had a weight lifted,” Taj Burrow told me later. “It just made me feel sad, really. I think about him pretty fucking regularly. He was such a big character. The documentary—it’s really accurate, and it really tells the whole story, which is just a wild freaking story, and he’s just a wild character.
Just seeing it so up close and personal, and seeing the direct impact, especially to his family, it just freaked me out. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when we watched it. It was heart-wrenching. It’s just one of those ones where he’s so incredibly successful, and there’s so much positivity to his story, but just watching how sad, and just how much it affected everyone at the end, it’s hard for me to watch. But it’s a really, really crazy story and I think a lot of people can relate to it.”
“Andy Irons was my older brother, my hero, he’s the person that made me who I am,” says Bruce Irons.
Some of those in attendance knew much of this story first hand, had been there in Indonesia when he flatlined for eight minutes after mistaking a line of morphine for a line of cocaine and overdosing, or on the sand at Pipeline when he’d won the HIC Pro at 17, or one of his three World Titles. Some had surely known of Andy’s struggles, had heard of his manic episodes, had witnessed his massive, world-conquering highs and crushing lows, had their own answers to the question this film seems very consciously hoping to answer: Who was Andy Irons?
“He was two people,” says Cory Lopez in the film, who at the age of 17 was traveling the world unaccompanied with Irons, and who knew all too well the depth and complication of Andy’s struggles with bipolar disorder, alcohol, cocaine, and later prescription drug abuse.
The production seems to have left no stone unturned unearthing previously unseen footage—particularly from Andy’s time in Australia in 2009, with Occy, Parko and close friends after getting clean, and just months before his death—the film’s most remarkable moments come from the candid and honest interviews with Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Cory Lopez, Logan Dulien, Andy’s widow, Lyndie, and especially Bruce, who at the time of filming was sober, clear-eyed and up for the task of parsing fact from fiction when it came to his older brother.
“Andy Irons was my older brother, my hero, he’s the person that made me who I am,” says Bruce. “My brother was a very interesting person. He had a lot of things going on in his mind, good and bad. My brother was unorthodox, wild, you never knew what you were gonna get.”
A few months after they’d wrapped filming for the documentary, I sat down with Bruce for an interview. I asked him how the film was going and whether he felt good about the project, etc.
“It’s been really heavy,” Bruce said. “The feelings are all over the place. It’s being done and I want it to be portrayed in the right way, in the honest way. But it’s been really hard on everybody, and it’s sad. But it’s good, remembering all this stuff. I did a lot of interviews. I was supposed to go out and check out the rough cut they had, and I didn’t go. I wasn’t ready.
Lyndie went, and said it’s really heavy. It’s fucking hard. I’ll probably watch the movie once, and never watch it again. No matter how good it is—and I trust these guys who are making it and it’s going to be incredible—but it doesn’t bring my brother back.”
The world premiere of Andy Irons: Kissed By God will take place in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 2nd. The Los Angeles premiere will be followed by special premiere screenings and events in Hawaii on May 6th and New York on May 10th. For more info on ticketing, go here.
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