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Irons had withdrawn from an event in 2010 amid concerns that he and others on the tour contracted dengue fever.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. toto

    I bet if Kelly Slater mother see him smoking a joint she'll beat the hell out of him. She will break that surf board in two pieces and ground him for a month. No surfing and no more pamela anderson videos in the house.

    He'll be washing dishes, cleaning the cars, washing the dogs, and cutting grass.

    But kelly is cool.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • evoc

      Your post is irrelevant. He is dead, won't be doing any of those things.

      June 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raevyn

      Kelly Slater isn't dead....who's irrelevant?

      June 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NuggyBuggy

    The family whitewashes it and tries to pass the cause off as a genetic predisposition, because to do otherwise would be to admit some responsibility. They knew it was happening.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      I totally agree. The headline says it his heart defect, then there's the "by the way" he also had cocaine, meth, xanax and methadone in his system. I am thinking the cause is really "doing a ton of drugs even though you already have a heart condition."

      June 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. toto

    Maybe the sport of surfing has to be regulated just like Cycling is. Drug test for every surfer who wishes to enter a championship event.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • testing

      yeah, testing worked real well in cycling. Did you you watch the 60mins episode a while back with Lance Armstrongs team mate?

      June 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      No threat to public safety, why should you intrude on surfers way of life, if it effects no-one else, and is paid for by there sponsors?

      June 10, 2011 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. bb

    The real issue is that if he had chest pains he should have seen a doctor for an EKG. Then he should have gone to a cardiologist and gone to the hospital to have a stent placed in the artery and he could have lived longer. I know. That's what I did.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • evoc

      Chest pains are not uncommon with cocaine use. He was a drug addict, and ruined his own heart resulting in his death.

      June 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      Did you live?

      June 10, 2011 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. Quinc

    "the first symptom of severe coronary atherosclerosis is sudden death"

    Oh good, at least there's a way to tell if you have the disease.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • evoc

      In 25% of the population.

      June 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. will m

    heart attack, caused by meth and cocaine. So he hadn't been an addict, he would still be alive. Family needs to accept truth at least not make him out to be an innocent party. and last time I checked cocaine and meth are not treatments for depression.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ginab

    Too much Spam and mac salad ...

    June 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. spike

    surfing is full of drugs. Its been that way for many years. Nowadays its harder stuff. i bet if they did drug testing and made it illegal to use we would see a lot less surfer competing. Anyone around the surfing community know that guys are abusing coke, speed, ice, etc. They let it happen because of money. His sponsers like billabong should be ashamed of themselves. they know he was doing that stuff. His family needs to return from lala land and accept the truth. He died because of drugs. Kids learn from this. Drug abuse can lead to death and even if you think you are superman you're not. The sad part of this is he never got to meet his child. I wish his kid all the best and hope his family is at least honest with him.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • helloeyes

      Nice post – Honesty is the best policy and the surf community does a great disservice by sweeping this culture of drugs under the rug.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • nowaybro

      The United States is full drugs and drug use among surfers is probably about the same as in the general population. Stop living in a world where stereotyping ruins your vision.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • 808G

      there's a lot of truth in your post, however no matter how much you try to help someone, as i personally know that his family did their darndest as well as billabong, you can't MAKE them stay clean. and what about all his "friends" that were partying with him that week??? are they also resposible? the real issue is that this is a tragic loss and unfortunate accident. how he died really is not tha relevant to me. i'd like to remember him for how he lived.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • helloeyes

      808 – I think what you mean to say is you're going to focus on the surfing and ignore the rest. You cannot ignore the truth about how hard a drug-user he was and somehow ignore its relevance to his death. How he lived is exactly why he died.

      June 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • 808G

      andy's drug use/abuse was very little to who he was. that's what i mean. i' dont know many people who haven't tried drugs. really this could've happened to anyone, in the surf industry, or not. i can think of a lot harder core drug users that SHOULD be dead, and are not. i think its just sad that the focus is on his weaknesses and not his accomplishments. andy is the first person to step up and say he fought with demons....he wasn't in denial. and niether was anyone who knew him well. like i said you can't force someone to not use.

      June 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      Spike:> If they did drug testing and made it illegal to use we would see a lot less surfer competing.

      The story goes the best surfers do not compete now.

      Spike:> His sponsor’s ... should

      Support their people. They are not qualified to be babysitters. It makes no business since. If they outlaw drugs, they will just sponsor whoever is left.

      Spike:> He died because of drugs. Kids learn from this.

      At the very least drugs do not make it easier on a heart condition.

      June 10, 2011 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jimbo

    Andy was one of the worlds best surfers. He will be missed.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. helloeyes

    His wife is downplaying his drug use. I don't know why. She should be speaking out AGAINST drug use on behalf of her son and her deceased husband. Perhaps she is a user too, otherwise why would she downplay his meth use to such a degree. To save face? He's already gone – his reputation is irrelevant. Or is it perhaps to make sure she gets the insurance money by not being completely honest. Either way, I'm sure the insurance company will get to the truth.

    June 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • goldtrader

      helloeyes: > his reputation is irrelevant.

      There is nothing irrelevant about the continuing income from his endorsements. He just joins the dead celebrity surfers list.

      June 10, 2011 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Idontthinkso

    99% of the families of drug users cannot admit that their loved one died of an overdose. I understand this well because I am one of those family members. This autopsy report sounded so similar to that of my own relative. He had diabetes (ruined his pancreas with alcohol) and beginning of athersclerosis. This was stated as cause of death in obituary. But ultimately what truly killed him was prescription drugs in his body (propoxyphene) and also in his home. We found a crate of them in his house and I could probably guess that Andy's family found the same. Then calls from his suppliers when the orders stopped coming.... etc. It's sad because this is an epidemic and this family could have stood up and said "there is a problem here" but I guess they did not feel that was their responsibility.

    June 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Matt

    Regardless we lost a very talented person. Whatever the cause may be.....Let it be.

    June 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KeeKeeDee

    So sad. My heart goes out to his wife and family.

    June 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. helloeyes

    A pathology report compiled by someone hired by the family – of course he was instructed to report *other* factors that would or could likely cause arteriosclerosis – besides rampant unchecked drug use – so let's go with genetics. Who can argue with that.... except all those who know the truth.

    June 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jimmy

    Hardening of the Arteries, not drugs, took this young man's life and the Coroner's comments were based on sound science and nothing more. Drugs had nothing to do with this. He got a bad heart that lasted 32 years. That simple. It is too bad he didn't heed the warning signs from his body (chest pain, and especially heartburn; a key symptom/precursor/warning of an impending cardiac event. The most important message to glean from this tragic story is "listen to your body" and take action if you have symptoms that are consistent with heart disease.

    June 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
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