Brewer was told that Irons had consumed a second fifth of Jack Daniel's, passed out, and stopped breathing. "So they stripped him down and threw him into a cold shower. They threw ice on him. He wasn't responding, and he was getting bluer and bluer."
One of the surfers administered CPR, which got Irons breathing again, and the group took him to a small local hospital, where he was given oxygen. "Then he went flatline," said Brewer. "He just dropped on us again. I think this happened three to five times total." The first hospital wasn't equipped to provide critical care, so the group took him to another, which was also improperly equipped, before landing at a facility that could treat him.
"They got him into ICU," said Brewer. "He'd gone flatline again. They paddled him. He came back up and, somewhere in between that and when we were outside the ICU, he went into a coma. And then one of his lungs collapsed. It was shocking."
For six hours, Brewer and some of the surfers waited outside the ICU. "Finally, at three or four in the morning," he said, "Andy comes around, they get his lung reinflated, and he comes out of a coma." The next day, Brewer was able to convince doctors to release Irons so the group could make their scheduled flight to Singapore—where he received additional treatment—and then home.
Unfortunately, the experience didn't seem to change Irons's behavior. A week later, Brewer said, at a party in the L.A. area held by Surfer magazine to celebrate its annual readers' poll, Irons went over the top with his drinking again. "What really pissed me off is that he was so fucked up at the Surfer Poll Awards," he said. "I couldn't believe he hadn't mellowed out. It made me wonder how he could go that hard and have a near-death experience—or a death experience—and then come back and push the envelope again."
The Indonesia crew never told their story, but in the wake of Irons's death, Brewer and others felt the time had come. "I'm honorable as far as keeping my mouth shut about things that are basically none of my business," said Brewer, who got a blessing from Andy's brother, Bruce, another top professional surfer, to discuss the episode. "But this one came so close to me. I could have lost one of my friends' children. Then who's at fault?"
ANDY IRONS GREW UP in Hanalei, Kauai, the north-shore town populated by locals and the people who run Kauai's tourism industry. His father, Phil, a carpenter and surfer and one of nine children, had moved to Hawaii from California in 1970. Andy and Bruce, who is 16 months younger than Andy, spent most of their childhood competing with friends and cousins for the island's perfect waves.
Both brothers eventually surfed professionally, but it was Andy who broke out in 1996, winning the HIC Pipeline Pro, on nearby Oahu, at age 17. A few months later, still relatively unknown, Irons showed that it wasn’t a fluke by winning another pro event—this time at Tahiti's deadly Teahupoo.