Andy Irons Lived Hard, Partied Hard

At 32, surfing champion Andy Irons died from a heart attack, according to reports, but was drug use a factor? There is a lesson to learn here.

Andy Irons' family has released his autopsy and toxicology report two weeks ahead of the second petitioned release date.

Since the three-time consecutive , twice the autopsy results have been delayed—once because Irons' wife Lyndie asked for the delay amid accusations of drug use and the subsequent media frenzy, next because a lawyer reportedly requested a second delay without the family's consent.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office in Texas found last week that the "primary and underlining cause" of Irons' death was from a heart attack due to severe coronary heart disease.

Although the death was ruled as "natural," toxicology results indicated Irons had used both methadone and cocaine within 30 hours before his death. In addition, the prescription drug alprazolam (Xanax) was found in his system.

Xanax is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines, used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks. The Irons family has said that Andy Irons suffered from anxiety, bipolar disorder and insomnia.

Tarrant County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani listed a second cause of death as "acute mixed drug ingestion."

The Irons family asked an independent pathologist, Dr. Vincent Di Maio, to review the report. His findings showed that Andy Irons suffered from hardening of the arteries. The family has stated that it has a history of congestive heart failure.

Di Maio did not agree with Peerwani's decision to list "acute mixed drug ingestion" as second cause of death, because he didn't feel that the drugs found in Andy's system contributed to his death—they were at "therapeutic levels."

Di Maio also said that while the hardening of the arteries usually appears around age 50, Irons had a “genetic predisposition” to the disease.

The family has said that Irons contracted typhoid fever about five years ago, which may have damaged his heart.

Initial reports of Irons' death cited dengue fever as the cause, and soon after word spread, "dengue fever" became one of the top searches on Google. According to the autopsy results, Irons tested negative for dengue fever.

Shortly after the surfing champions' death, speculation of illicit drug use and rumors of a hard partying lifestyle began to surface. 

There were reasons to speculate.

In an article written by Brad Melekian for Outside magazine, dozens of people close to Irons—including fellow surfers and sponsors—spoke up, chronicling some of his drug use and drinking, including a near-death incident in Indonesia following an episode of binge drinking on Irons' 21st birthday.

That didn't scare him. He was known for partying hard and having a bad temper.

He could be very charismatic. Friends have told stories in the media about him having a good, kind heart, but this side was often overshadowed by his antics in and out of the water.

Some blame Irons' sponsor, Billabong, continuing to pay the surfer a reported $650,000 per year salary—not including bonuses, prize money and funds from other endorsements—despite knowing of his drug use.

Some blame Irons himself.

But all the effort spent looking for someone to hold responsible won't change a thing. Most of all, it wont bring Andy back.

As I watched the video of Irons’ memorial on Kauai, I was touched by how many people showed up and paddled out for the service. You can see the sorrow, love and admiration on the faces of those who paid their respects that day. Local surfers  as well.

His death was a great loss in the eyes of many.

But what truly touched me was seeing his younger brother Bruce, Irons’ mom and dad standing in Kauai, each with a hand on Lyndie's swollen belly—a small piece of Andy to hold onto.

I wonder—if Irons knew how much he was loved and admired, would he have chosen the same path? There is a lesson to learn here. For some, love and admiration may not be enough.


Gold Trader June 18, 2011 at 01:43 AM
The world champion surfer has made his final statement with his death scene. Dropping out of competition dope sick, dying alone in his airport hotel room, just trying to get back home. Sorry for your loss.
J J Glenn December 19, 2012 at 04:41 AM
It's still amazing that some people in the public at large still view some surfer's with distain. I recall when Andy beat Kelly for the world championship. Who else could have done that at the time? Surfing is an incredibly tough and arduous sport , and pros make what is so hard look so easy. No matter what he may have done , he is still a World Champion and winner of many , many surfing competitions. He is the idol of many surfers , and not being here to defend himself , let's remember him for all the things that he did for the betterment of surfing. He will always be a legend in the surfing community.


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