Photo: Brien Bielmann

LYNDIE IRONS ON THE ANDY MOVIE

“I wish he was here to see it, to finally see that everybody loved him.”

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It’s been almost eight years now since the passing of Andy Irons aged just 32.

For those close to Andy they’ve been eight long years coming to terms with his loss, moving on without him, and wrestling with how to tell his story so that the world would not only understand what happened, but why… so that down the line the lessons learned might help some kid, somewhere.

With the Australian tour of Andy Irons: Kissed By God about to kick off, Lyndie Irons talks candidly with Sean Doherty about her husband, his film, and her calling to launch the Andy Irons Foundation.

SW: You’ve just finished touring Andy’s movie through the States, including at home in Hawaii. How’s the reception been, and how’s the experience been personally for you?

Lyndie Irons: Honestly, months in advance I was probably the worst I’ve been in years – even during the making of the film – because I was so scared of what people were going to think and what they were going to say. As you know, Andy was the biggest punching bag in surfing; his lifestyle was so… anyway, I literally assumed the worst. I was bunkering down. I spoke with my therapist and said this is going to be really tough… I just thought people were going to be so awful about him. I was so scared, to tell you the truth.

Once the movie came out I hung on for dear life, with Danielle (Andy’s mother) and Bruce. They were like rocks. I’m waiting for all this to happen, but I honestly have never been more relieved in my 36 years of life. The amount of love and understanding from everybody has been so great. Now I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster high. I was prepared for the worst. I thought he was just going to be ridiculed, but the opposite happened. I wish he was here to see it, to finally see that everybody loved him. It breaks my heart, but at the same time I’m so happy and relieved. And Axel, with his age at seven, I thought the kids were going to be mean and all these things, but honestly it’s been an unbelievable amount of love. I guess the truth sets you free.

Why were grown men crying when they watched the movie? What was it about Andy and his story?

He was one of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever met. He was your friend, he was your best friend, and when he loved you he loved you hard. He was the most real, raw human I’ve ever known. The producers did a really good job of grasping him. He was an amazing person who had a little bit of a dark side, but at heart he was a good man.

How close was he to telling his own story?

He always wanted to, and at the end there his body and his demeanour was changing. He was feeling really comfortable with himself finally. He was finally letting it go, he let the people closest to him know what he was going through, the drug part, and if you asked him to his face, “What did you just do?” he was so honest he’d tell you to your face, “I just snorted four Oxycontin.” He was so honest. I know that it was real close. You could even see it in the movie; his body, his face, everything changes as he gets comfortable with who he finally was.

In terms of Andy’s bipolar disorder, I suppose the tour might be a good environment when you’re up, but not so much when you’re down. Particularly when he was winning, did the rhythms of the disease work around the tour?

I think he was a lot more in control of his bipolar than we all thought, and I think it worked for him in a way. He was so aggressive in the water and his manic highs worked for him, and they were so much more than his lows. I felt his lows – the real low low part of the bipolar – didn’t come out for me personally really until a few years into our relationship, until I noticed that they were drastic lows. I was like, that’s weird, and I noticed they happened in the same surf spots they’d happened in the year before, so there were patterns to it. I thought that was really weird. It felt like… I don’t know, it was a trip but somehow he always pulled it together. He did what he needed to do and he got through heats when he was on his manic highs. That’s when he did his best and it fed him. It fed him more, to a point where he just kept ramping it up.

Do you feel a calling now to take everything you’ve lived through, and learned, and share it?

Making the movie definitely changed me. When I started working on the movie and learning about mental illness and the drug addiction stuff, and I think stepping over that hurdle and starting to let go and learn, I thought how great would it be to help kids, like the kid Andy once was. Where Andy grew up on Kauai, on an island, there was no help and no resources. He was just this crazy bad boy who happened to surf really good. But it’s given me real purpose, as much purpose as having Axel. It feels so right.

Taking the movie out on the road, have you met other bipolar disorder sufferers and talked with them?

The Q&As at the movie screenings, I feel that’s been my therapy because during the whole process of the movie… I look at my interviews in the movie and I’m very, very guarded compared to how I am now. I was really timid about saying things and that’s where I was at the time, but now I told the producers, I’ll do all the Q&As. Get me out there. People in the audience share their stories and I talk about my experience, what I was dealing with, and I love it. A lot of people have come forward. I had no idea there were people I was really close to that had bipolar as well who I’ve spoken to now about it. It just feels safe to talk about it, to talk about mental illness and addiction. I just wish Andy was here to feel that, to feel that it’s okay.

Grab tickets to see the movie here. Lyndie will be holding Q&A sessions at selected cinemas and sessions only, during the premiere tour.  For the full interview with Lyndie check out Surfing World issue 399, out September 6.

Sean Doherty