Nick Carroll: They Just Forgot!

31 Aug 2019 12 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Owen Wright wins the Andy Irons Award back in 2014. Photo: ASP

Owen Wright wins the Andy Irons Award back in 2014. Photo: ASP

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Seriously, that’s why nobody won the AI Award at Teahupo'o.

The WSL once claimed it as being “more coveted than any other” surfing award.

Its winners include the finest balls to the wall chargers in recent pro history, including Jeremy Flores, John Florence, the late great Ricardo Dos Santos, this year’s Teahupo'o champ Owen Wright, and Kelly Slater, who said he’d wanted to win it from the start, felt as if he’d been “channelling Andy” the week he won, and would be placing the Award “front and center in my home”.

But this year at Teahupo'o, nobody won the Andy Irons Award for Most Committed Surfer.

Not because nobody was committed enough to win it, christ no. I mean we all watched it, right?

No — according to our sources, it was because the award just slipped everyone’s minds.

“It was honestly just overlooked,” one person close to the WSL impact zone told CW. “They (mentioned it) in the booth, but no one on the back end (at the WSL) drove it to make it happen.”

The AI Award was first presented in 2011, the year after Andy won at Teahupo'o for the second time. Two months after that win, he died in a hotel room in Dallas/Fort Worth Airport — arguably the most seismic event in pro tour history.

It was first won by Jeremy, who made an absolute legend of himself on the post-Code Red day that year, when Teahupo'o teetered on the edge of un-paddleability.

The award was very much sought after by the surfers. Oddly enough it dropped clean off the radar in 2018, when Billabong — AI’s major endorsement — dropped their sponsorship of the contest.

That year, the surf was a wash. When no award was given, many assumed it was because nobody had had to charge hard enough. But this year…different story.

The whole thing raises some weird shit for us. Is it really possible just to forget an award every surfer wanted to win? Do awards cease to have meaning when an event changes presenters? (Hurley took over presenting sponsorship rights when Billabong departed.)

More pointedly: would pro surfing’s cleanskin owners kinda prefer it if the sport moved on from its wild past? Does renewing AI’s memory each year — his flaring life and awful death — sit a bit awkwardly with pro surfing’s polished future? Would they rather it just quietly slipped away?

Regardless, Billabong have plans to continue honouring Irons. “There will definitely be an AI Award at Pipe,” says Evan Slater, Bong’s global VP of marketing.

CW asked for comment from both WSL’s Pat O’Connell and Dave Prodan, but hadn’t received a reply before push time.

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