John John Florence On Why Andy Was the People's Champion

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One thing many of Andy’s friends and fellow competitors cherished about knowing him was his warm, genuine personality. As he rose to fame, winning three world titles and countless others, his generosity and warmth never wavered. To the younger generation of surfers like John Florence, this served as a testament to Andy’s greatness, and inspired them over the years.

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To Florence and other Hawaiian surfers, Andy’s powerful style, especially at waves like Pipeline showed them what was possible in the water. Florence says, “It was him and Kelly when I was growing up. Me and my friends, those were our favorite surfers. Those were the guys that we looked up to, and the guys that I grew up watching. Especially with Andy winning the world titles, and winning here at Pipe. It was hard to explain. He was that guy to us. He was our biggest idol. He was the guy we all looked up to, and the guy that we wanted to be.”

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Andy’s notoriously radical, do-it-his-own-way personality came through in his surfing. He would not let anybody else tell him how to do things, but when on, would give surfing a 110% effort. That explosive style and fiery personality naturally led him to become not only World Champion, but something far greater: the people’s champion.

Florence says: “I think that he was the people's champ because of how he was and who he wanted to be. He surfed how he wanted to surf, and that's my biggest thing about his surfing. Surfing's such an interesting sport. You can surf in so many different ways, there's so many different types of surfers, and so many different styles...and it's pretty cool to go out there and express your feelings and your emotions. So I feel like Andy really did that well and stuck to his own thing, and that's what I strive to do.”

Andy Irons:Kissed By God is a story about mental health and addiction as seen through the life of Andy Irons. If you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering, please contact the SAMHSA national helpline.

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