HONOLULU – Andy Irons brought the world surfing title back to Hawaii on Tuesday.
Irons, of Kauai, clinched the Association of Surfing Professionals world championship on the final day of the Rip Curl Cup on Oahu’s North Shore. He became the third Hawaii surfer to win the world title, the last was Sunny Garcia in 2000.
He has became the first Kauaian-born surfer to have ever won the title.
“I’m on top of the world,” said Irons, who lives in Hanalei. “This is the ultimate dream. For a competitive surfer, I don’t think you can put it in words how good it feels.”
Irons, 24, was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Rip Curl, but his closest competitor in the World Championship Tour rankings, Australian Luke Egan, was also cut in the quarters, giving Irons the world title.
“He’s been the most complete surfer all year by far,” Egan said. “He highly deserves what he got today.”
Irons took the ratings lead in the second event of the year by winning the Rip Curl Pro in Australia and never lost the lead. He went on to win two other tournaments, giving him 13 career victories. Irons has earned $160,375 this season.
“My goal in the beginning of the year was to do better than last year, and that was 10th, so if I got ninth, I would’ve been happy with that,” he said.
But Phil Irons, who introduced the sport to his son, said the world title was “due.”
“He was focused the whole way,” Phil Irons said. “It’s something the kid worked for since he was little. To do it here at home. … it’s overwhelming.”
Derek Ho was the first surfer from Hawaii to win the world title in 1993.
“Derek and Sunny have always been total mentors to me, but beyond that, they were heroes,” he said. “Those are the guys I looked up to as a kid. Now these days I see them and talk to them on a friend basis, that alone is a dream come true.”
While Ho and Garcia are Oahu natives, Irons is the first from another Hawaiian island.
“It’s for the state of Hawaii, but definitely it’s for Kauai,” he said. “To have an outer-island champ is just incredible. That just opens the kids eyes and let them know they can do it and the opportunities are out there.”
Irons said maturing over the past year helped his surfing. He also credited his girlfriend for keeping him focused on the sport – not partying.
“It’s a pretty wildlife style, so just finding the stability and getting more on a program definitely helped out a lot,” he said.
Irons said being called “world champion” seems unreal, but the crown won’t change him as a person.
“I’m totally the same person, I’m just a Kauai boy with a title now,” he said.