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Irons had withdrawn from an event in 2010 amid concerns that he and others on the tour contracted dengue fever.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

    Funny that he went to a holistic health practioner... I wonder if methadone, xanax and meth laced cocaine are considered holistic remedies?

    June 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jkhn

      How are kids ever supposed to learn the pitfalls of drug use if doctors and family dont just come out and say he died from drugs. Its pretty obvious.

      June 10, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • DumbIdiots

      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." A rose by any other name still has thorns. LOL What an apparent couple of losers!!!

      June 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • DumbIdiots

      His wife says he did not use methamphetamine, "so it is likely in the cocaine he ingested." LOL What a couple of losers!!!

      June 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      looks like he had bad genes. No matter what you do, it gets you. His fetus/unborn child will need to be evaluated at an early age. They put stents on the left main now.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    Caption should be corrected, Slater is a 10-time World Champion.

    June 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Iron Man

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

    June 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • justin

      yes.. and the last symptom

      June 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gort01

      ROFL ROGER...


      June 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      only when you are 100% occluded...then again, you may grow some collaterals and survive...a while.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. jfc1


    I wonder why they thought he died, before the autopsy.
    Did they think that it was due to something other than natural causes?

    Well, now they know.

    June 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. goldtrader

    How much of his success was fueled by drugs?

    June 10, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
    • dsavio

      LMAO yea, coke is a real performance enhancer. you don't know anything about drugs.

      July 4, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    His family is not the only ones trying to save face. His sponsor and the surf industry are responsible for the spin report. A report stating the flat truth would put a negative cloud over the sport. Don't want the public to think surfers are a bunch of immature druggies who surf and party.

    June 11, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      Guess you guys are right. It is pretty rare to die so young due to completely clogged up arteries. Sudden death and heart disease may get a little push...from the pusher.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Roger

    The first symptom? ...I didn't know death was a "symptom". (lol)
    Well; now, do we look for OTHER symptoms AFTER this one, I presume?...(lmao)

    June 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Natalie

      Um. The doctor is basically saying that those 25% who are unfortunate enough to have this sudden onset will just die suddenly instead of having any other symptoms, so death comes first before anything else. Duh. The doctor didn't word it incorrectly or to make you laugh.

      June 23, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. bill

    bad heart, doing coke, yeah, that will do it

    June 16, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amy600

    Drugs harden arteries. My friend's father died prematurely by doing too many drugs but it was a heart attack that actually killed him. Andy, like my friend's father, was on a ton of prescription medication and the pharmaceutical companies really don't want to deal with a rise in OD's of their medicines so it's rare that people die solely of prescription drug overdoses. Another thing to consider is that most insurance companies don't pay out life insurance policies if the death is by drug overdose. This makes the truth buried in policy and politics. I doubt that Andy would have died of a heart attack at 32 if he stayed away from the drugs.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Verimius

    Obviously he should have got more exercise.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Hmm

      LMAO. That's funny. I don't care who you are.

      July 5, 2011 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. Natalie

    This is someone's life. Losers like you who comment and make jokes about it are pathetic. If this was your father, son, brother, friend, etc., would you still be laughing? "In 25% of the population, the first symptom of severe coronary atherosclerosis is sudden death" OBVIOUSLY means that the unlucky 25% aren't fortunate enough to have first symptoms like 'heartburn' or 'chest pains'. Instead, they get death as their red flag. You people are idiots.

    June 23, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      doing drugs certainly changes everything. He may have had chest pains at 38, a trip to the cath-lab and ending up with stents should he had been clean.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Tia

      If it was my father, son, brother, friend, blah blah blah, I would have tried getting him help for his cocaine habit before it killed him. His wife was obviously aware of it since she stated that the meth must have been in the cocaine he snorted. Clearly he didn't value his own life so try worrying about your own instead of chastising people for not not caring more about his life than he himself did.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Amen Natalie. Andy Irons was a legend. He deserves respect.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steve

    Please show some respect. AI died of a serious heart condition. Did he have problems? Yeah. Did he have some substances in his system? Yeah. But he was a three-time world champ who didn't know he had a genetic predisposition to this disease. AND I could care less about the sport's spin control. I hope surfers always have the "dirty hippie / bohemian' tag on them. Thank god skateboarding didn't get so clean. The biggest loss was for his wife and child. Maybe fatherhood would have turned things around a bit. RIP brother!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CHOPPY

    LOSERS? he definitely admitted had some problems and clearly made SOME bad decisions in his life..... to everyone thats quick to call people names and point fingers obviously have the perfect life and never make mistakes... but to everyone else thats human and inherently makes a mistake or too... he accomplished to see alot... do alot... alot more than most that are sitting pointing fingers and calling names.. it just so happened that HIS mistake cost him his life or at least contributed to it. RIP

    July 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tryecrot

    Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

    August 26, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. james

    Damn sure alot of Haters here, come on like your all perfect , give him his props he was a world champ , on the flip side how good would he have been without drugs problems, maybe unbeatable

    November 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
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