HANALEI, KAUAI, HAWAII – Hanalei Bay offered a window into heaven today as thousands gathered from around Hawaii and the world to celebrate the life of three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons. At the shore of Andy’s cherished home, family, friends, and those whose lives have been touched by the 32-year-old gathered to bid farewell to the surfer, father, brother, son and husband who inspired a generation.
In the embrace of majestic Hanalei, Andy’s younger brother Bruce led close to 1,000 friends in a paddle out beyond the rising waves to encircle a double-hull canoe that carried Andy’s wife Lyndie, his parents and close friends. On shore, thousands more watched on as Andy’s ashes were released into the sea and flowers poured from a helicopter circling above.
At the same time, synchronized tributes were taking place around the world from Australia to Europe, and mainland USA in the greatest outpouring of aloha the surfing world has ever seen. It was a fitting tribute to a young man whose home-grown achievements, passion for life and family, and committed character proved that childhood dreams are worth chasing.
Mahalo to the Irons Family, who opened their arms to share their son with the world and embraced us all today. Mahalo to the community of Hanalei for allowing us to partake in this day and who will continue to support the Irons family for many years to come.
I’m tempted to view these so called tributes to Hawaii’s surfing legends with a bit of cynicism sorry to say. In the wake of such an untimely loss, and while folks are still processing Andy’s meaning to them, its hard for me to say what I’m about to say. Which is, I think we need to raise the bar a bit more in terms of who we venerate, and why. Big waves are in some ways like big mountains. They challenge our survival instincts pushing us beyond our abilities and giving us a sense of exhilaration and pride. The most brave souls are certainly worth holding in high esteem but to often we gloss over the dark side of these so called champions. With the passing of entertainment icons such as Don Ho, Mackey Feary, Israel Kamakawiwaole and others, there is something out of place when we fail to recognize what I’m tempted to call the real heros among us. I can think of names who passed on where few if any recognized their accomplishments, much less what they were attempting to achieve. Elvis was a internationally recognized musician but how many of us dared question his drug use and overdose? Why did it somehow not matter to anyone that he was undone by a drug habit? How important in the grand scheme of things are these icons when weighed against some of our most pressing challenges as a society? Hawaii for example has one of the highest tax rate in the country and we almost never find people who take the State to task over it? Failing infrastructures and families split apart by drug addiction are but a few items most choose to ignore. Never before in our history has there been so much government intrusion and we barely take notice of those who push against the tide? Freedom comes at a price, and there are those who but for their efforts, we would not able to enjoy life as we do. Can someone tell me what Irons did to advance freedom?
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