Hundreds attended a paddle-out in Huntington Beach, Calif., to remember Andy Irons.
IT’S not uncommon for the number of surfers near the Huntington Beach Pier in Southern California to reach triple digits. But last Sunday, the headcount swelled to more than 500. The surfers were not jockeying for waves, though. They were bobbing on boards in the open water, holding hands in a large circle.
This was a “paddle-out,” the way surfers throughout the world honor their dead. It’s a floating memorial service, with flowers and reminiscing, but no dirges. The ceremony was for Andy Irons, a beloved world champion from Hawaii who died Nov. 2 at age 32, of as yet unexplained causes, in a hotel room in Dallas. Shocked members of the surfing community swiftly organized paddle-outs around the world: in Bali, Australia, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, Virginia, Florida and Mr. Irons’s hometown, Hanalei, Kauai, as well as Huntington Beach, where Jim Kempton, a longtime surfer and former editor of Surfer magazine, was among the spectators on Sunday. “I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger one,” he said.
As many surfers tell it, the paddle-out stems from Polynesian tradition.
Andy Irons’ father said he believes that the world champion surfer died this week of dengue fever, a painful, mosquito-borne illness that causes flu symptoms and sometimes blinding pain.
Irons had been in Puerto Rico last week, where dengue fever infections are reported “year-round,” said Esther Volper, a Ph.D. candidate and dengue fever expert at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Dengue is characterized by high fever, severe headache, chills, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, eye pain and a rash.
It typically takes four to seven days for dengue fever to show its symptoms, Volper said.
Before he arrived in Puerto Rico last week, Irons had competed in Portugal, a country that does not have dengue fever, Volper said.
“If he, indeed, had dengue fever he would have had to be bitten by an infected mosquito in Puerto Rico,” Volper said.