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Bruce Irons

Bruce Irons

Introduction: Daniel Ikaika Ito
Interview: Rob Mora
Photography: Lance Arinaga

Spirituality is such a loaded word these days, but when Bruce Irons was forced to deal with the tragic death of his brother, Andy Irons (1978-2010), it was spirituality that saved him from the depths of depression. At this point in his life, the 32-year-old is in a happy place as a father of two and a professional free surfer. In the past year, Bruce has become increasingly more visible in the surf once again, charging decade-defining swells in Tahiti and Fiji, and making the semifinals of the 2012 Volcom Pipe Pro. He’s very candid about his overall feelings about contest surfing, and is also very honest about his newfound outlook on life.

Contrast was fortunate to be able to sit down with the 2004 Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Champ to talk about where he finds joy, Andy’s passing, fear, spirituality and his greatest achievements. The following is an uncensored interview with Bruce Irons.


Bruce Irons

Rob Mora: What makes Bruce Irons the happiest?
Bruce Irons: Well, happiness first has to come from me, so what makes me happy is getting paid to surf. It’s something that I love and it’s a dream come true. I’m always grateful for that…getting paid to do what I love, surfing good waves and being around my kids.

Were you brought up in any sort of religion?
I’m an atheist. No! [laughs] A nihilist? No! [laughs] Growing up, I went to church a couple of times and I think it was…you know what? I don’t even know if it was Catholic or Christian to tell you the truth. I consider myself a Buddhist. I believe there was a Jesus Christ and he did amazing stuff and they wrote a book about him. They wrote a lot of books about a lot of people who did amazing stuff, but the religion I believe in is, I’m my own god. You’re your own god. Everyone is their own god… Then there is a universal god, who is The Creator.

How did you cope with Andy’s tragic passing, spiritually and psychologically?

I coped with it by not accepting it and avoiding the fact that it really happened. Basically, just running from it. It was the wrong thing to do because I eventually had to face it, deal with it and accept it. It’s a hard thing to accept. It’s a part of life that I now know and have to understand. Death is a hard thing to understand because we don’t know it until we’re there, but through spiritual enlightenment [I coped]. I had to go really deep. I went pretty low and isolated myself. I cut myself off from the world and did a lot of work on myself. Then I got help from some really good and supportive people, healer types.

Who was the spiritual leader offering you guidance?
You’re your own healer, but there are people in life that come along. I have some friends that came in and told me some really good stuff that resonated with me. Like my friend, Todd Morcom, and a guy named Kent. He’s an energy-worker and he helped. They [energy-workers] help you by assisting you to better yourself. Kent helped move a lot of this old energy out of my stomach. Like feelings and all that other kind of stuff that I bottled up along with my brother’s passing. He helped me move that stuff out: It saved my life! He’s a big part of my life and will be forever. I’m really, really grateful for that.

Bruce Irons

What are those harmonizer rings that you were using during the Volcom Pipe Pro?
The harmonizer was actually turned on to me by Kent. The rings are Egyptian measurements: the lost cubit and the sacred cubit […] everything in the center is positive light. It has something to do with the circumference of the Earth and all that stuff. All it is is positive energy, but it also comes down to if I believe in it. Just like anything you want to believe in. I could wear a penny on my neck and I’d say the same thing: if I believe in it, that it’s doing good for me, then it will. I like what the rings represent, the positive light because I was negative for a long time. That was the old Bruce, and the new Bruce is positive.

Bruce Irons

What are the life lessons you learned from the ASP World Tour?
It took discipline to get there; and focus to get there. Making the tour was the best thing for me because I never thought I was going to go that route, you know? I was a free surfer, and my brother was more of a contest surfer. I was kind of just fucking off during those years after I graduated [high school], just raging around the world and enjoying my life off the island [Kaua‘i]… Living it up around the world, and having the greatest time, ever. I really wasn’t focusing on contests. As soon as I got on the tour, I realized that it was my brother’s world. It made me realize how much I hated contests after we had a heat together and I beat him [laughs]. Don’t get me wrong, I like competition because I’m a really competitive person. It’s just, I don’t like…it’s a grueling tour. It’s consuming all year long. It’s stressful. I put a lot of stress on myself and started surfing the way I thought you’re supposed to surf...for the judges, for what they want to see…their criteria. For me, I was just never that kind of surfer. I felt like I had a stick up my ass. I felt like a robot. I was embarrassed when I was out in the water [during heats]. My insecurities and all that shit—what people were thinking and all the crazy shit I put in my head. It made me realize that’s not why I surf and I’m unhappy. I surf because it’s an outlet for me to just be in the ocean and I do it because I love it. Back to the whole what I learned from it… Do it because you want to do it and don’t do because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Growing up surfing: oh, you do the amateur contests, you do the Nationals, you get on the tour and dun, dun, dun, dun. Fuck! I’m fortunate enough to have great sponsors that support me even if I’m not on tour. Competition is fun, but for me, I don’t want to be a dick and just dog guys. Fuck that! I’m over it…that part of my life and the ego…all that shit, I just want to surf and have fun, you know?

What has being a father taught you?
Patience. I learn a lot from my daughter, the whole anger management processing, letting feelings out and moving on. Patience is a good thing. Also, unconditional love. Now I know the meaning of unconditional love. Before I never really understood, but my daughter and son, no matter what happens and whatever they do, I’m going to love them no matter what unconditionally.

How does riding giant waves relate to your spirituality?
Let’s be honest…it scares the shit out me [big waves]. Thinking about it scares me, but once I get there in that environment, that’s when I actually get all pumped up. I feel comfortable once I get out in the water. I don’t know. There’s something about the ocean when it’s big and really alive […] I’m scared, but I have this energy that I like. Spiritually? I feel like I have a connection. Surfers have a connection—more than other sports—with Mother Nature because you’re sitting out there in the water, you’re riding swells, and you get this weird feeling that you should paddle over to a spot because you feel the waves coming over there. It’s a weird feeling because it’s a connection like a meditation or your Third Eye. You sense that a wave will come and all of a sudden it comes. You’re either in-sync or you’re not. It’s very peaceful.

If you could talk to the 18-year-old Bruce Irons, what would you tell him?

Um…fuck! God, an 18-year-old Bruce is scared, insecure and fucking egotistical. People tell you not to judge a book by its cover—but I do it all the time...I don’t like doing that—but it’s kind of human nature. What would I tell Bruce? ‘Smile! Smile and be happy because life is good.’

What are your proudest moments?
Definitelythe birth of my children and [winning] the Eddie Aikau. Back then that was a great moment for me...and my brother winning the World Title.

Define success for you.
Being happy.


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