Bruce Irons has been emulated by every single one of us at some point in our lives. That’s a fact that no corporate motherfucker in your company will understand. Only you can. His impact on all our lives ain’t in a spreadsheet and it is not calculable and there was no social strategy that got him there. Bruce did that on his own.
The past few years he’s looked life dead in the eyes, suffered more than his fair share of humbling moments, heartache, tragedy and dealt with some of life’s most fucked-up situations. But in our most recent conversation — and already at early season Pipeline — he’s proving to us all that he’s back, doing all that stuff we all wanted to emulate our whole lives, but could never do quite like Bruce.
I’ve personally only had the chance to meet Bruce Irons once in my life. He came into my office sucking on a lollipop, buzzing around my office like a bumblebee, staring at and commenting on the photos I had tacked to the wall. He was surfing to me. All of it. And it was rad to watch the spontaneous mind inside the man I’d been so fascinated by my whole life wander around my weird corpo [at the time] office and let his influence ooze into the Berber carpet. He’s been there forever, and I’m happy to report he’s making his presence felt again, simply by going surfing.
And I will be the first to say that this isn’t his first, second or third chance — I actually don’t care which chance we’re on for him. Because as I’ve said, we are all him. Just a man. Bruce, his demons, his limp-wristed forehand cutback, his family, his friends, his fuck-off backhand no-grab pit stance. That’s all us too.
We recently got a chance to sit down with Bruce on a quiet day in California to talk. About it all. What he’s learned. Where he’s at. And it was really rad. —Travis Ferré
BRUCE IRONS: I’ve been in California surfing with Reef [Macintosh] and [Danny] Fuller. Getting solid and healthy for the winter. Triple Crown, Pipe Masters, Eddie Aikau. Seeing my kids and being real close to them. Getting ready for the winter. Going to Tahiti tomorrow. I’m psyching.
Pro surfing has changed a lot since I was growing up. When I was growing up surfing, I never saw it as a job or a way to live. It was more of a lifestyle. I lived at the beach, my older friends taught me a lot — good and bad — but surfing was my lifestyle. Nowadays it’s a humongous business, and you can make a lot of money — the kids can make a lot of money now. And it’s great. It is a chance to have a life that we never thought we could have. It’s a dream come true. I trip out on where I’m at. In a way, surfing saved my life.
It’s not as violent these days. It’s less hands on. Kids don’t get slapped as much [laughs].
Social media is fucking gnarly.
I love surfing — but for me it’s a source of income. It’s a job. I didn’t always know that. Now I do. When you’re young you’re all hyped up and back then I definitely took it for granted.
I always had someone doing something for me. Lining up trips. Getting me sponsors, taking care of the checks, the bills. As long as I had a credit card I could stick in and get whatever I wanted; it was all gravy. I wish I had been a little bit more involved with my life financially. Knowing where this and that is going. If you don’t, you’re going to have a lot of people taking advantage of you. I had a fair bit of that. There’s a lot of money to be made in surfing.
Best advice I could give to kids: if surfing is your path, I would definitely say separate surfing and your home life. Separate that. Your mom and dad are Mom and Dad. I can tell you from experience, it doesn’t work if your parents work for you. Are they your employer or your mom or dad? That was a rough one for me and my brother to have to learn. Get people you trust — you gotta trust people. I think when you’re young it helps to have some managers guiding you and teaching you. But at a certain point you don’t need managers. You know what you’re worth and they don’t deserve that cut.
Don’t mix family and friends with business. Family is forever. Don’t forget that.
Fatherhood is the best feeling in the world. Having the love from your child. You don’t realize how big your heart is or how much love you have until you have kids. They bring that out of you. You have to grow up. You can’t be selfish. You have to have patience.
I feel having kids is what we’re put on this earth for. The only thing that matters are precious natural minerals and resources. And the perseverance of your bloodline. So kids are good. Kids are grounding. Kids are pure love.
We’ve been filming [the Andy Documentary] since January. Enich and the Jones Brothers are doign this documentary on my brother, and we’re gonna be doing it until it’s done. Getting a lot of interviews and footage and making sure the story is told right. No sugarcoating. Just my brother. The ups, the downs, the intensity. What my brother was. Raw.
I was watching this thing on Kelly — this clip just on his whole thing and just to see…fuck, that energy and rivalry that my brother brought out in a lot of people, especially Kelly. I know Kelly misses that. You’ve seen what that brought out in Kelly. It helped push his career to where he is now. Ripping and battling these kids. I miss that about my brother, that raw…you don’t know what the hell he’s gonna say or what you’re gonna get and you’re on your toes — it’s just his feelings and it’s who he was…I miss that a lot.
For the full interview, pick up What Youth Issue 13 here.