The Modern Man … has heart

The maturation of Bruce Irons.

A big wave rider with a bigger heart.

They say that surfing’s lost its edge. That we’ve sold out our roots for a six-figure paycheck and a mortgage. They say we’ve lost our personality, traded in our rebellious, don’t-give-a-shit attitude for a new please-and-thank-you demeanor complete with stock options. They say we’re different now.

But maybe it’s not that we’ve changed, it’s that we’ve matured. Just ask Bruce Irons.

Undoubtedly one of the sport’s most colorful characters, Bruce, who hails from Kaua‘i, has been a central part of surfing since he and his late brother Andy first came on the scene in the mid ’90s. A figurative curveball in the sport, both in the lineup and on land, you never knew what Bruce was going to throw at you, what he was going to do, or what he was going to say.

Although his talent in the water is unquestionable – Bruce is a one-time World Tour surfer and Eddie Aikau champ – on land he was regarded for his brash yet fun-loving personality. He was regarded as a man who, for better or worse, wore his heart on his sleeve and prided himself on his honesty.

Not that he was out to unsettle the establishment or even provoke an issue, but in Bruce’s eyes, he was simply calling a spade a spade. His personality simply couldn’t stomach insincerity. It was what made him a character and so beloved by his peers and his fans.

“I’ve always tried to be honest and not sugarcoat things,” Bruce tells me. “That’s just the way we’re brought up on Kaua‘i. You have to be like that or people would call you on it. You couldn’t really be sensitive or you’d get chewed up and spit out. But I think that maybe I have changed a bit as I’ve grown older. Maybe I’m a little bit wiser now that I have kids. I’m still me, I just know a little more now, I think.”

As Bruce alluded, he now has a daughter and son. And by his own account, while fatherhood hasn’t necessarily changed him, it has matured him. He’s still as candid as ever, and at his core remains the same Bruce, but through the births of his children, he’s added another element to his character.

“They say that having kids will change you. Before I had mine, people would say that to me, and I really wouldn’t think too much about it. But it’s one of those things you’ll never really know until it happens to you. You know the phrase ‘unconditional love?’ Well, it’s totally true. The moment you see your kids for the first time, you get it. You know that no matter what, you’re going to love them forever.”

Perhaps Bruce is emblematic of surfing’s current crossroads. We’re still a motley lot and haven’t forgotten our past. We’re just as daring and at times, erratic as ever. It’s not that we’ve necessarily changed, but like Bruce, we’ve matured.

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