As you may have read yesterday, pro surfer Kelly Slater became the oldest world champion in surfing history after winning his 11th world title. (Amusingly, Slater is also the youngest, having won the same title at the age of 20.)
Slater snatched the title out from under Aussie Dan Ross in the final two minutes of competition, scoring 7.6 on his final effort to claim victory. But the win was somewhat bittersweet for Slater, who received the title one year to the day since rival surfer and friend Andy Irons died suddenly of what was initially reported as Dengue Fever. However, earlier this year, autopsy results were released indicating 32-year-old Irons actually died due to a heart attack with a secondary cause of “acute mixed drug ingestion.”
Some of Irons’ family disputed the report, but eventually released a statement acknowledging that the pro surfer had battles mental health issues in the past and relied on common medications like Xanax and Ambien to cope. Slater recalled the solemn anniversary and reflected on his friend’s life after winning his title:
“It’s been a special time. Someone’s looking over us here, and it’s probably Andy. What are the chances that I do this on the anniversary of Andy’s passing away? In a way it makes this a lot more special. It’s a way to celebrate my memories of him … I wrote a story for him this morning of some of my memories of Andy. I could probably write a book. We had so many memories – the good, the bad, the ugly. He was just an incredible surfer and guy.”
During a lengthier comment on the loss of Irons earlier this week, Slater mused:
The story of Andy Irons may likely never feel good to us whether you were his friend and you miss him or you have a strong judgment about his shortcomings and it made you angry. No matter what, it doesn’t make sense for someone so gifted and in touch on so many levels to die alone in an airport hotel room nowhere close to anything that mattered to him. But remembering someone can sometimes be about the toughest thing you ever had with them and feeling like your life is better for having experienced that with them. And if that can make you laugh or smile, you’re honoring their life and their legacy, I believe.
You can read Slater’s thoughts in full on The Inertia.