The majority of surfing movies transport us to exotic locations where impossibly blue water forms itself into perfect waves so that exceptional athletes can perform high-flying, occasionally death-defying maneuvers on them. There is some of that in the film Andy Irons: Kissed By God but the latest film from Teton Gravity Research offers much more.
Andy Irons rose from humble beginnings on the island of Kauai to become a three-time world champion surfer. He was on the pro tour and earning six figures a year by the time he was 17 years-old. Irons became one of the most popular surfers on tour and his rivalry with Kelly Slater became the stuff of legend. What was not known to the public was that Irons suffered from Bipolar Disorder, a problem that was exacerbated by his heavy drinking and drug use. It was the abuse of prescription painkillers that eventually took his life in 2010 at the age of 32.
Kissed By God tells the story of Andy Irons through the eyes of the people who loved him and those who competed against him. The emotionally-charged film features interviews with Andy’s brother Bruce, a talented pro surfer himself, Andy’s wife Lyndie, his arch-rival Kelly Slater, and fellow competitors Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson among others. The portrait they paint of Irons is honest, unvarnished, and at times difficult to come to grips with.
“For me, the most amazing thing was that everyone in the theatre already had a connection with Andy either as a fan or as someone who has had mental illness affect a loved one,” said Roberto Mena, who is a regular at the Rhode Island surfing spots. “The film also helps to build awareness of prescription drug addiction. It’s a good mix of surfing and education about drug abuse.”
It all adds up to a powerful experience that couldn’t come at a more appropriate time given the depth of the opioid crisis in this country. Kissed by God is a cautionary tale of glory, downfall, redemption, and ultimately tragedy. All surfers and fans of the sport are going to want to see the film but hopefully it will have a broader reach because of the importance of its message.
Andy Irons: Kissed by God will be shown at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport on July 18 at 8:00 p.m. For more information on the film or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.tetongravity.com/shop/newport-ri-premiere-of-andy-irons-kissed-by-god-2672.html.