The long awaited Andy Irons documentary did not disappoint, delivering a brutally honest depiction of Andy's mental illness struggles and substance abuse truths. As a young ignorant grommet growing up looking up to Andy and other pro surfers, I viewed them as a complete professional and performance machines.
From an outside perspective you look at these figures through admiring eyes without knowledge of the possibilities of concepts of drug abuse and mental illness. To us they are professional athletes that would have to be 100% committed to their craft. It seems at the time surfing was a very far cry from this at the time and grappled with many social problems seen in other area of societies if not worse than those. The guys partied like rockstars first and foremost, It wasn’t just Andy but the wider surf community. It also possibly illuminates one of the reasons that Kelly was able to be so successful throughout this era, being years ahead of his contemporaries in his professionalism and performance. Kissed by god tells AI’s real story that sheds a lot of light on his personal struggles but also the surf industry at the time.
The explanation of Andy’s journey through Bruce’s eyes was particularly raw, not leaving any personal details out to shield his own public figure, bruce tells all . The extraordinary pro surfing brother duo have a story unlike anyone else has and ever will have. Self admittedly their competitive nature shaped them into the people they are for better or worse, pushing themselves in big surf, pushing themselves at partying and occasionally just pushing each other around, followed by a few fists for good measure. One distinct example is Andys crazy late drop at a very solid day at Teauphoo, bruce called him into It and after initially sliding sideways down the drop he sticks the way and comes out of a crazy cave. This moment he describes propels him into a confidence streak that gets him on a roll of winning events after events and onto his world title run.
Bruce and his parents insights into Andys younger years begin to paint a picture of how this train wreck of an ending for Andy had many tell tale signs even early on in his life. Andy moods were always erratic due to his Bipolar disorder and much to his dismay he was put into special education classes during school. He hated that label and he hated school but when he found his release through surfing his raw talent soon became very clear. He was signed to be sponsored very young in life, by the age of 17 he was making $120,000 a year and his appetite for partying like many young surfershad become evident. He was young, travelling the world, cashed up, surfing and partying, smoking a lot of weed and drinking heaps.
After early success and getting on tour Andy's partying behaviour soon got the better of him over dosing on a boat trip in Indonesia. This was really the first sure sign that his substance abuse problems were running a lot deeper than just having a good time and was beginning to self medicate for his Bipolar and mental health issues.
The Overdose seemed to wake him up a bit though because he got back on tour and started to preform well. Then at some stage things just turned on for Andy. His brother described him and how his brain worked like a Rubix cube, once it clicked into place it just turned into next level surfing performances. That is the nature of BiPolar, extreme highs and extreme lows. Even though Andy's life was shrouded in success, accomplishments and unconditional love from his wife Linda and friends, there was an unending internal battle that couldn’t be cured no matter the circumstances.
Bruce even mentions that during Andy's competitive reign there was a lot of hands coming out from people around them and even some of the Wolfpack .This also coupled with people encouraging partying and Andy’s self destructive behaviour. After Andy's 3 world titles his fire for competitive surfing seemed to be burned out. The downwards spiral was quickly escalated by Andy’s new found use of prescriptions drugs such as pain killers and Benzodiazepines. Amongst this downwards spiral there was still many moments of inconceivable brilliance, like the contest he won in Chile running off no sleep and had been partying throughout it the whole time.
Although his competitive flame had clearly faded it looked as if Andy was now trying to get to a place of peace in his life. He and long time rival Kelly made amends and were talking about working on a surf collaboration film. Andy wanted to talk about Bipolar to the wider community and raises awareness for others who are also grappling with Bipolar and mental illness.
Just as it seemed Andy seemed to be on his path to healing a trip to Puerto Rico changed everything, passing away be himself in a hotel room due to an overdose. Overall the documentary was extremely well put together and most importantly truthful and raw. It wasn’t glorifying drug use and partying, contrastingly it was highlighting the relationship between abusing both prescription and recreational drugs and the correlation with mental health. It is an eye opening example in our generation that even the biggest stars can fall and can need extra help and attention. So make sure to ask your mates how they are, look our for behaviour that seems past having a good time and more self destructive and don’t be afraid to seek help yourself. If the movie can just help one or a few people to lend help to themselves or there mates, then its done its job. Big ups to the producers and the irons family.