In November 2007, Irons and his longtime girlfriend, Lyndie Dupuis, got married on Kauai. Around that time, editors at various surf magazines got word that Irons had been in rehab and wanted to come clean publicly. But if a disclosure was planned, Irons never followed through.
"There was certainly internal knowledge that wasn't made public," says Evan Slater, former editor of Surfer and Surfing magazines. "In our world, you sort of look the other way, because it's a tight community."
Many industry insiders suggest it was the sponsors who scuttled Irons's plan to go public. After the near-death incident in Indonesia, Brewer said, one of Irons's then-sponsors asked him point-blank to keep quiet. "I was asked not to say anything to anybody," said Brewer. "I said to them, 'Well, are you going to keep an eye on the guy?' Maybe because of the amount of money he was making for that company—and from that company—it became an oversight, and nobody looked into it. Nobody cared."
One official with a former sponsor, who asked not to be named, acknowledges that his company was aware of Irons's substance abuse. "It was pretty apparent," he says. But he denies hiding it. "Do we advertise certain parts of our athletes' behavior? No. But do we actually cover it up? No." Billabong CEO Paul Naude declined to comment on whether his company knew of Irons's drug use.
Andy's father, Phil Irons, reached by cell phone on Kauai, wouldn't talk about it, either. "Those are problems that a lot of people go through," he said. "They're nothing to be brought up. Ever."
If Irons did decide to keep quiet, the decision seems puzzling in some ways. Other surfers have come clean in the past and actually boosted their public image as a result. Big-wave riders Peter Mel and Darryl "Flea" Virostko recently opened up about their use of methamphetamines. And Irons's own mentor, Billabong team rider Mark Occhilupo, bared his soul about kicking a cocaine habit before mounting a comeback in 1997.
Acquaintances say Irons did make private admissions. "He definitely came clean with his friends," says a source close to Irons. "He was totally open with me to the point where he said, 'Me and every housewife in America.' Then he was like, 'Fuck, the crazy thing is that people think things are way worse than they are.' He'd read the chat rooms."
Whatever treatment Andy received, John Irons says it helped. "Did it change his life? Yes. He was amped to get back on the tour. He was refocused and ready to go."