Kelly Slater dedicates 11th world title to Andy Irons

andy-irons-kelly-slater-get.jpg Kelly Slater has won a record-setting world surfing crown and he did it at the age of 39, making him the oldest world champion in history (incidentally, he's also the youngest, as his first win came at the age of 20). The title came at the Rip Curl Pro in Ocean Beach, which is in the San Francisco Bay area. Slater had to finish 9th or better to mathematically win the world title and while the Rip Curl Pro is not completed yet, he has secured himself at least a 9th-place finish, securing him the world title for 2011.

The title happened a year to day since Slater, and the surfing world, lost one of Slater's longtime rivals and friends in surfer Andy Irons. Irons was found dead from a mixture of drugs he was taking for insomnia and an illness, in a Texas hotel room Nov. 2, 2010.

(Slater is pictured above, left, winning the world title; the picture on the right is of Irons and Slater together in 2002. Irons is hoisting the trophy.)

Slater said after the win, "It's been a special time. Someone's looking over us here, and it's probably Andy. What are the chances that I do this on the anniversary of Andy's passing away? In a way it makes this a lot more special. It's a way to celebrate my memories of him ... I wrote a story for him this morning of some of my memories of Andy. I could probably write a book. We had so many memories - the good, the bad, the ugly. He was just an incredible surfer and guy."

The story Kelly speaks of is posted here. A snippet of what Slater writes:

The story of Andy Irons may likely never feel good to us whether you were his friend and you miss him or you have a strong judgment about his shortcomings and it made you angry. No matter what, it doesn't make sense for someone so gifted and in touch on so many levels to die alone in an airport hotel room nowhere close to anything that mattered to him ... one thing is clear, I still can't believe that Andy is gone ... An anniversary is best used for remembering the good things and letting it all sink in more so that the sadness fades away and the good memories remain.  And if we learn anything from that, let it be that the positive impact of Andy and all our other friends who are gone bring us closer to the ones and the things that we love right here, right now.

I'll leave you with one last thought of Andy. The other day I was with a friend who had given Andy some rims for his car. In his office, my friend had a signed board from Andy. The autograph was signed, "Picture me Rollin'!"  And so I will, buddy.

Congratulations to Kelly Slater on his 11th world title. A fitting way to honor his late friend.

Photo/Video credit: Getty Images