The witness was told by others on hand that drugs were involved, but added that the scene didn't feature the standard trappings of a recreational-drug party. "It's not like in the old days, where there’s a room in the back with mounds of coke," he said. "Now, people pass around pills."
At one point, a friend went back to Irons's room, then returned to the party, saying that Irons had tried to start a fight with him. When others went to investigate, it took two surfers—one a former Navy SEAL, who was the trip's doctor, and the other a cage fighter—to restrain Irons, who was in a rage. Ultimately, he was sedated. "It's hard to explain how ugly it was," says the hotel guest. "Everyone was baffled."
Several sources indicate that Irons cleaned himself up after the incident on Fiji. By the time the World Tour came to Tahiti in September, he was sufficiently fit and focused to storm through heats and win. He was ecstatic, saying after the event: "My whole dream was to come back and just win one contest. I've done that now. I want more."
THOUGH IRONS'S FINAL DAYS are still shrouded in mystery, it's possible to piece together the main events. He arrived in Puerto Rico on the evening of October 27, but when his three-man heat hit the water midday on October 30, he wasn't there. After Irons failed to show, fellow competitors and members of the media immediately grew suspicious. "We'd all heard he was sick—stomach flu, fevers, something. Nobody knew what to believe," says ESPN’s Jake Howard.
Round-one heats on the tour aren't elimination rounds, so Irons was scheduled to surf the next day, October 31. Again he failed to show, and this time he called World Tour manager Renato Hickel to formally withdraw. Irons complained of flu-like symptoms and, as Hickel put it to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, "said he'd rather have a doctor come to see him because he was sick."
Irons was seen by a physician at his rented apartment in Isabela, a five-minute drive from the contest site. It's unclear what he was treated for, but it's known that a flu had been going around among surfers. Irons was taken to the airport on Sunday evening, where he was to begin his long trip back to Hawaii.
He arrived in Miami on Sunday night. A Billabong spokesperson told an Australian reporter that Irons had spent "two days" on an IV drip in Miami, which now seems unlikely. Sunday night was Halloween, and Irons, faced with an overnight layover, left the airport and headed for South Beach, according to one person he contacted that night by phone. Irons said he was "on Ninth and Ocean," had a "backpack and a wallet full of cash," and wanted to have some fun. He was connected with friends and went to a party.
Irons "had a few drinks," this person says, and at four in the morning he was placed in a cab and taken to Miami International Airport. His flight for Dallas left at 6:30 A.M.