Coming into the 2008 ASP World Tour there was quite a bit expected from Kauai’s Andy Irons. Following a disappointing 2007 campaign – at least according to the standard set by the 3x world champion – there were many who expected A.I. to come back to form and put himself into a viable position to regain a crown that fell upon the head of someone besides himself and Kelly Slater for the first time since the abbreviated 2001 tour.
He is currently sitting at 8th in the WCT rankings following the Australian and South Pacific legs of this year’s tour. While I’m sure there would be a Trestles line-up worth of surfers who would gladly take an 8th place ranking a third of the way through the year, this clearly isn’t good enough for a surfer who will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time greats both in and out of competitive surfing.
Andy’s frustration with his current position came to a head and was visible to all (actually, with the malfunctioning Globe webcast it may or may not have been all that visible….but that is another post in itself) with his antics throughout his loss to fellow Hawaiian Fred Patacchia. Between his boxing matches with the ocean, his punting his board away on kick-outs, and his eventual dropping in on Freddy P and picking up a last second interference he made it known that he is not at all happy about simply being ranked in the top 10. He wants it all, world title or bust. And to be honest, in my opinion he is the only surfer on tour who has any shot of keeping Slater from what many consider to be his inevitable 9th world championship.
How can that be? Well the simple fact that Andy has performed nowhere near to the level he is capable of is something he can look to as a positive. Yeah, he is in 8th and up against a seemingly impossible climb to reach Kelly, especially with Kelly appearing determined to end the whatever title hopes anyone else may dream of at the upcoming Billabong Pro J-Bay. But if Andy can somehow put himself anywhere near the top heading into the Hawaii stretch, he and he alone will be the only surfer able to pull off the miracle it will take to deny ‘the king.’ Of course the North Shore will have to cooperate and do the exact opposite of what it did last year in the form of swell.
I’m not sure Andy will have much of a chance if he’s forced to scrape up scores on meager waves. But if it does, and Andy is close and back to the form that has made him one of the most exciting surfers to watch and a living legend in his own right….Love him or hate him, he will be the only obstacle standing in the way of what looks to be clear path for Kelly Slater’s eventual crowning(again).