Lighthouse International Film Fest, South-End Surf ’N Paddle Bring ‘Andy Irons: Kissed By God’ Film to LBI

Surf Biopic Delves Into Mental Health, Addiction
Nov 07, 2018
Courtesy of: Teton Gravity Research On November 24, "Andy Irons: Kissed by God," plays at South End Surf N' Paddle.

He was a three-time surfing world champion from Kauai. He could ride heavy barrels at Teahupoo and Pipe or nail a huge air with style. He was adored by a generation for his surfing and his aggression, the talent and drive that specifically defined an era. He seemed outgoing, and his friends said he’d do anything for them. His name was Andy Irons.

But Andy Irons also suffered from bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues. While the surf industry elevated his image and pro surfing celebrated his victories, his life behind the façade was one of self-destructive behavior and strained relationships. His fans knew only of his amazing surfing and dominance on the tour. His erratic nature was usually hidden from the public.

The world only started to get a better picture when Irons died suddenly in 2010. The cause of death was a heart attack with drugs found in his system. The months after were a chaotic time in surfing; no one wanted to tarnish Iron’s image or that of surfing in general. The Irons family stated it was all due to the heart attack and failed to recognize his troubled side publicly.

Now the world is coming to grips with the truth on A.I. with the groundbreaking documentary “Andy Irons: Kissed by God,” which plays at South-End Surf ’N Paddle on Nov. 24, presented by the shop and the Lighthouse International Film Festival.

Irons’ wife, Lyndie, was pregnant with their son when Andy died. She gave birth to Axel Irons in December 2010. Andy was also survived by his brother Bruce, who also surfed the World Tour and plays a heavy role in the film. So much more than a surf movie, the film chronicles Irons’ rise, his epic dynasty and his storied rivalry with Kelly Slater.

But that’s not what makes this piece stand out. It’s the fact that the Teton Gravity Research directors Steve Jones and Todd Jones delved into his untreated mental health, addictions and, even more importantly, the national opioid crisis that played a role in his life and downfall.

Threads of surfing history have always intertwined with drug use. Even around LBI, many surfers deflected the realities of Iron’s troubled life and cause of his death. Ocean County has the second highest rate of overdose deaths in New Jersey, which has been closely tied to the opioid epidemic. This film tackles that bigger national problem head on.

“Obviously we always like to support the Lighthouse International Film Festival and we usually do a surf-themed movie every year,” said Ken Gallant, owner of South-End Surf ’N Paddle. “But this is so much more than that. I think the subject matter is really relevant to this area, or any small town.

“People see the flashy side of surfing, but they don’t always know about the true undercurrents. I think it’s an important movie, and thanks to Christine Rooney of the film fest, we were able to get it. It’s not being shown many places to the public.”

South-End consistently opens its doors to community events. For the last several years, it has hosted films on Shop Small Saturday, the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce’s campaign to promote small local businesses during the holidays and bring shoppers over the bridge to LBI.

“The Southern Ocean chamber embraced the concept of Shop Small Saturday when it was launched in 2010,” said Lori Pepenella, CEO of the chamber. “We have promised our members that we would leverage in-store promotions with additional marketing and awareness.

“We have measured growth each year of participation in businesses as well as special marketplaces, concerts and activities that have enhanced Thanksgiving weekend in the region. As regional champions for Shop Small, we dedicate our November membership meeting to highlight all businesses are doing to bring attention to shopping and planning holiday parties using local retailers, restaurants and services. Each year the creativity and collaboration between businesses continue to prove the outstanding options we offer in our innovative community.”

The shop will be set up with a new projector and 100 seats. Tickets are $5 at the door or online at and are anticipated to sell through fairly quickly.

The event will start at 5 p.m. with a screening of TGR’s ski and snowboard film “Far Out,” followed by an intermission with refreshments and then the featured film at 8 p.m.

— Jon Coen

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