Family: Surfing legend Andy Irons' death at 32 caused by hardening of arteries
Andy Irons was known for his battles with world-renowned nine-time champion Kelly Slater.
June 9th, 2011
10:44 AM ET

Family: Surfing legend Andy Irons' death at 32 caused by hardening of arteries

Triple world champion surfer Andy Irons died of a heart attack caused by the hardening of his coronary arteries, his family said in a press release Thursday. Irons, 32, died unexpectedly in November.

Irons had withdrawn from an event in 2010 amid concerns that he and others on the tour contracted dengue fever. He was returning home to Hawaii when he was found dead in an airport hotel while on a layover in Dallas.

But long-awaited toxicology reports and an autopsy, which were held off while his widow, Lyndie, was pregnant with their son, showed that dengue fever did not lead to the surfing star's death.

"A plaque of this severity, located in the anterior descending coronary artery, is commonly associated with sudden death," Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a prominent forensic pathologist, explained to the family, according to the press release.

"The only unusual aspect of the case is Mr. Irons' age, 32 years old," Di Maio told them. "Deaths due to coronary atherosclerosis usually begin to appear in the late 40s. Individuals such as Mr. Irons have a genetic predisposition to early development of coronary artery disease. In about 25% of the population, the first symptom of severe coronary atherosclerosis is sudden death."

No other factors contributed to his death, Di Maio told the family.

But the official toxicology report and autopsy from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner notes a second cause of death as "acute mixed drug ingestion."

Di Maio however said he believes most of the the drugs found in Irons' system (Xanax and Methadone) were at therapeutic levels. Benzoylecgonine, which is often tested for when conducting cocaine urinalysis, was also found in his system. A toxicologist that the family consulted said the levels of Benzoylecgonine were "consistent with the use of cocaine at about 30 hours prior to his death."

The report also shows trace amounts of methamphetamine in Irons' system. His wife says she insists the surfing champ did not use methamphetamine, "so it is likely the substance was present in the cocaine he ingested."

Lyndie Irons said that looking back, she does remember a few instances in the last year in which her husband complained of chest pains or occasional heartburn. She said a holistic health practitioner in Australia, whom he visited when he was looking for vitamin therapy, "offhandedly" said the surfer "had the heart of a 50-year-old."

She also said her husband had gotten typhoid fever five years ago, which she knows can damage the heart.

"But Andy shrugged it all off and led no one to believe he was in ill health," Lyndie Irons said.

Andy Irons was known for his battles with world-renowned ten-time champion Kelly Slater, one of the people who got him into surfing.

"It's all about the feeling I get from riding that wave," Irons said in a video for one of the tours called "I Surf Because." "That first wave is the reason why I think everyone keeps coming back."

And making a comeback is just what Irons had done. He had taken a year off, and admittedly struggled with some personal problems, but said getting back into surfing was what helped him get through it.

"I have a lot of inner demons. If I didn't have surfing to get those out of my system, I would self-destruct," he said in the video. "Surfing's the only reason that keeps me going at a normal state. It keeps my life at an even keel; without it, it would just tip into oblivion."

soundoff (184 Responses)
  1. Bibi5

    So, anyone out there who thinks they don't need to go to the doctor because they feel fine, should think again. A simple blood test may have saved this man's life.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      This is really sad that a young man should die of a heart attack. Unfortunately, this guy was doing drugs. Cocaine is really hard on the heart.
      "No matter how cocaine is taken, it is dangerous. Some of the most common serious problems include
      Heart problems, including heart attacks
      Respiratory effects, including respiratory failure
      Nervous system problems, including strokes
      Digestive problems
      Any of these can be fatal. Using cocaine with alcohol is a common cause of drug-related death. "
      See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cocaine.html

      June 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      What "simple blood test" do you recommend, Doctor? It is possible to have coronary artery disease with a normal cholesterol pattern if you are genetically predisposed or are a drug user.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm55555

      Methadone causes heart attacks. Irons was coming down from a drug-induced binge, according to my friend who hung out with him in Miami when he was on the binge, before he took a flight to dallas and then checked himself into a hotel. Sure, he was not taking Crystal meth, but he was taking methadone probably before he boarded the plane and when he got to dallas. this is a PR stunt on behalf of a guy that had life-long issues with drugs.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sencho

      Bibi5,

      Did you actually read the article? I'm guessing you didn't because your comment makes zero sense.

      Irons spent years abusing drugs and the official toxicology report indicated that a secondary cause of death was "acute mixed drug ingestion".

      June 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      mm55555: > He was not taking Crystal meth, but he was taking methadone probably before he boarded the plane and when he got to dallas.

      The medical findings do not confirm your story. Andy had meth in his body, not methadone when he died in Dallas.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. vince

    Irons lived the life. Who wouldnt have loved to travel to all those tropical places in the world and surf. Atleast he had a good life.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • rDS

      I'm guessing if you could ask him he'd say HE'D give it up to be able to live 50 more years ! Travel is no big deal if you die at 32.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ajarman

      yes... and his baby son has no father... I highly doubt Andy would have wanted it this way.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • helloeyes

      When he found he was going to be a father he did say he was going to stop... but then he also was famous for saying that he wanted to live hard and die young. Why anyone would marry a drug-addict is beyond me, let alone have his child to raise alone.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      vince: > At least he had a good life.

      Do you mean compared to yours. He at least he had a good life compared to yours.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. cool keith

    I think being genetically susceptible to the condition coupled with the drugs was the ultimate cause of his death.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • david

      nooo. the condition was the cause of death you dolt.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • tommr

      Sirhan Sirhan, you dolt

      June 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. .Dr.What's wrong with me.

    Sounds like he was killed by drug use and subsequent heart disease in that order.
    Spin control to make this seem cleaner than it is.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • david

      you figured it out! next.. tell me who shot kennedy?

      June 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • tommr

      whoops, wrong posting.... see above

      June 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hades

      Wow... David is an ass.

      Trust me.. I am one to, it takes one to see one.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. toto

    It is very sad this happen. by the CNN story apparently he was up to no good – doing cocaine – and " surfing the ONLY think that keep you leveled?????

    How about you pregnant wife with your son???? How about being a good father, how about being a good husband, how about being a good role model for the sake of your family. How about mom and father and brothers????How about staying healthy for your family those are the thing that keep people leveled. Riding a wave serves no purpose other than self pleasure for about 45 seconds or a minute. The reciprocal love you get from the people who loves you last a lifetime

    That is sanity – not surfing – the water isn't going anywhere – your peers and the people who loves you won't.

    So sad to have lost a champion, and I wished he could have had someone to talk to. I will always be your fan.

    May GOD give you piece and love.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Mina

      I think you mean "peace," not "piece."

      June 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      toto: > I wished he could have had someone to talk to.

      He talked to a lot of people, he saw Doctors, He made his own choices, he lived his own life. Why can't people accept that?

      June 10, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. Name me sir realist

    Let's face it...cocaine ingestion with a bad heart equals recipe for disaster and in this case, the premature passing of a great surfer.

    As for inner demons, we all struggle with them to our own relative degrees...some just deal with them better than others.

    Rest in peace Andy Irons. You were great to watch surf and will be missed.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. emmarose

    not to be a jerk, but this hardening of the arteries is crap. EVERYONE in the surfing community knew andy was a BIG TIME drug user. EVERYONE. he had been abusing drugs (cocaine, heroin, oxycontin, crystal meth, alcohol, other drugs...) for over a decade. this was common knowledge. he had severe mood swings (maybe he was bipolar anyway?) and got into physical altercations with others a lot because of his mood swings. he was a top athlete so i'm thinking his heart was fine. this was flat out a drug user who overdosed. i understand lyndie wants to cover it up with pretending it was something genetic or natural andy couldn't avoid to protect his image/name brand. he was a drug addict and OD'd. end of story.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorthShoreHoale

      You do sound like a jerk. Everyone did not know this because what you have said is untrue. Yes he did abuse a few drugs but that did NOT include heroin, oxycontin, nor crystal meth. He was not a speed freak by any means and liked the more mellow acting drugs. If you knew him then maybe your opinion would be worth something but most likely you did not so spreading your BS rumors is wrong... RIP Andy!

      June 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • helloeyes

      actually emmarose is RIGHT – why is the surf community full of denial. He was a big time drug user with a bad temper who died of an overdose.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Drew is a clown

      This is really a tragedy for all involved. A 32 year old with a wife and family who rather apparently partied so hard that he had a heart attack and suffered sudden cardiac death. (Most of those who pass away from a heart attack do so from the arrhythmia created by the heart attack, specifically ventricular fibrillation; not the actual heart muscle damage.)
      You just have read between the lines (just barely) to realize what really occurred. That is why it took 6 months to conduct or should I say concoct such a ridiculous pathology report. It took so long to get a report because the family didn't like the official county medical examiner's report so they hired this so called expert , Dr. Vincent Di Maio, "a prominent forensic pathologist". Of course, since he was bought and paid for by the family, he would come to the conclusion that "no other factors contributed to his death." There are no theraputic levels of methadone, it is only used for the treatment of heroin addiction or very rarely in difficult cases of chronic pain management. Cocaine certain wasn't prescribed by any physician. Simply put, he died of Len Bias Syndrome. I doubt such a high level athlete would have never had a simple medical exam which would have shown the dramatically high cholesterol levels it would take for a young, world class athlete to develop such severe atherosclerosis and a large cholesterol plaque. I'm not trying to be mean spirited about this. This was a terrible thing that should never have happened. The pain felt by his family must be tremendous. I only am pointing out the obvious because instead of trying to whitewash the facts for the sake his fans, the family could have used this tragic event as an opportunity to serve as a wake up message to others who live similarly reckless lifestyles, particularly those with drug and alcohol issues.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      NorthShoreHoale: > That did NOT include heroin, oxycontin, nor crystal meth. He was not a speed freak by any means and liked the more mellow acting drugs.

      You do not drop out of surfing, take a cut in pay, and go into rehab for smoking grass.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. clark1v

    a good life? he himself said he had inner demons. and he was using drugs and surfing to get away from those demons. sounds to me like a man still searching for fulfillment and happiness ... it would have been good for him to find true happiness.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. styymy

    Chest pain/discomfort isn't normal. Go see your Doctor!

    June 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Guy

    Kelly Slater is a 10x world champion, not 9, as the caption states. RIP Andy.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Baranga the Great

    Too bad so sad Andy did cocaine and pooped in his wetsuit and when it was over his wetsuit stank and I wonder if he did void his bowels because usually people who die do and they don't tell you about that I mean when was the last movie you saw where the bad guy got it and then crapped everywhere that would be more biologically accurate so that is probably what happened to Andy which is sad because he was a great surfer but I hear he was kind of a jerk too but I never met him so I will give him the benefit of the doubt but drugs are bad they make you poop in your wetsuit yeah

    June 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • runner305

      You are a master of run-on sentences. Congratulations!

      June 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • it's me

      you are truly an idiot.

      June 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. iraniansurfer

    andy irons rest in peace. all the iranian surfers in iran and los angeles respected and admired your surfing. great athlete. lets not add more heartache to his family by dragging out the cause of his death. surf the energy wherever u are at. peace and love.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      isnt iran landlocked?

      June 10, 2011 at 4:33 am | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      iraniansurfer: > lets not add more heartache to his family by dragging out the cause of his death.

      It was the family that dragged out releasing the report. It could have been released in November.

      June 10, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. paul

    Drug use is not that uncommon at 32 but as you can see that at any age, health can turn it's back on you.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Hugh Jarce

    Come on people, this guy was so full of dope he was a walking pharmacy. He essentially committed suicide, and now his dealer is on welfare. No pity here.

    Idiots need to die, it's just natural selection at work – unfortunately this one managed to breed before he offed himself – so now his dumb genes will (regrettably) get passed on to another generation.

    The heart attack deal just helps his relatives feel better about the whole thing.

    June 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • helloeyes

      I feel for the offspring because obviously the mother is not that smart either.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      Hugh Jarce: > Now his dealer is on welfare.

      Don't they have to take tests to get welfare?

      June 10, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Cesar

    Good Riddance I Say!
    Just another crack head. Who cares about some dumb-ass surfer drug addict?

    June 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
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