I met Andy Irons in 2001. That summer, antsy at the lack of swell on Kauai, he and one of his buddies bought a ticket to Tahiti. He decided the day before leaving that it would be a good idea to try to get a “filmer guy” because, oh yeah, he was filming for Taylor Steele’s flick Campaign 2. He didn’t check the forecast or weather, or obviously the bodyboarding comp schedule which was running a two-week contest at Teahupoo. I guess he just wanted to take off and surf somewhere. He was just a surfer who happened to have the time and resources to bail to Tahiti when he wanted. Legit.
I was that filmer guy. I met him at the Honolulu airport. Immediately my name went from Chad to “Muska” after the skater, somehow. He didn’t treat me like Filmer Guy; he just treated me like another one of the boys, and I appreciated that. He ripped the shit out of that nameless right-hander that everybody knows about, and I got told not to film or there would be bodily and equipment harm. So that footage is mostly up in the mental vault.  He drove the car fast, and we drank beers and he did get crazy one time, and it was awesome. And the next morning he surfed fast and surfed crazy, and it was awe-inspiring.
The next time I saw him was on Tavarua. I was there with Shane Dorian filming for his sorta-bio movie  “the Blueprint” (jeez I was about, hmm 15 years too early on that!). Andy had just signed with Billabong.  The waves were big and firing, and Andy surfed with that now legendary blend of style, aggression, and straight up arrogance.  He won “Best Tube Ride” from that trip, from Shane’s movie. We had a weird flight home, so we had to cruise at a hotel in Nadi for twelve hours. I was reading my book. He was getting skitzy with nothing to do, and he started doing pushups. Then he leaped up and yelled “Fuck, Muska! Aren’t you losing it!? Let’s go do something!” So we went and took out a little hobie cat and tried to get it on one hull.
I saw him at various events and surfy-type things over the years. He was always the same, authentic, and oft-used “raw” Andy Irons that I had hung out with in Tahiti so many years before. I didn’t know him all that well, but I would definitely say he had a big heart.
The last time I saw him was during a trip to Tavarua the year he passed. I long before had quit filming (I wanted to surf – not capture surfing!), and had somehow lucked into the Tavarua boatman job. It was my fifth stint, I think. He jumped off the boat: “Yeah, Muska!”
“What? Bra, you sure you know how to drive?” he said in that good-natured but kinda prickish Andy way.
I didn’t see him that much on the trip.  We just didn’t have the same boat schedule, I guess. I did have a couple beers with him one night and reminisce on the fact that we had known each other for nearly 10 years. I was really stoked at that moment. Here he was three World Titles later, but just the same bruddah from Kauai.
He went a little nuts a couple nights later, but I missed it. I did see him one session, possibly hung over, definitely looking like he didn’t feel like surfing very much. But he was making everyone look silly, he was surfing so good. To me that was pretty fucking cool to be so radical. Maybe because I had been there too (minus the ripping), but more because I loved that he wasn’t going to hold back any part of his personality for the sake of his celebrity. He was just Andy.
So, Andy! I didn’t get to say goodbye to you on the beach in Tavarua, and that was the last time I saw you. It was an honor to know you and thanks for the good times! – Muska.
P.S.  Here is some footage from that Tavarua trip way back when. Some people have seen it, most haven’t.  It’s sick. Everybody misses you. See you soon.