The most crowd-pleasing shorey ever ridden.
2004 was an enormous year for both the Irons bros. Andy took the world title and Bruce was getting a lot of the attention, especially in Hawaii, where he was on fire.
It started at Waimea. As an invitee into the Eddie, Bruce was frothing. He had a lot on his mind, stuck deep in the QS quagmire while Andy was winning everything. He wanted to qualify so badly, but first, there was the Eddie.
Bruce was out there first thing in the morning, with the odd 40-footer moving through the Bay. He was frothing, but the one thing about every single Eddie that has ever run is that the talent pool has so much depth. Every one of the people invited has the ability and the balls to win the event. There are no easy heats, and no short cuts to the final. The only way to win is to sit deep, catch the biggest waves, and ride them out. No small task at maxing Waimea.
Bruce had a point to prove and he sat deep and never flinched in the face of a single set. He hunted the biggest waves, the steepest drops, the most critical take-offs.
The final was like an assembly of surfing royalty. Ross Clarke-Jones from Australia was the fearless charger and 2001 Eddie champion. Shane Dorian, one of the greatest big wave surfers of all time was in the final, as was Andy Irons. Peter Mel was in the mix, as well as Kelly Slater, who by that stage already had six world titles to his name. That's a serious crew, competing in dangerous waves, for one of the most prestigious accolades in the sport of surfing.
Each one of those surfers could have won the event, but the final featured a highlight moment that will forever be remembered. Bruce picked up a massive wave, stuck the sickest drop, and managed to ride out safely. By the time Bruce had made it to the channel, the wave was surging with enough power to see him pump his gun through a few flat sections, through the middle of The Bay. At about half-way spectators, as well as Bruce, knew he was going to take it all the way to the shorebreak, but no one knew what he was going to do once he got there.
As Bruce made the connection to the shore break, you could see that he was thinking about the barrel. It had been done before – Hawaiian legend Mike Ho making the inside connection and pulling into the barrel – but Brucie made an occasion of it.
"At first I was thinking, oh no," recalled Bruce. "Then I just went, no way, I'm going for it."
As he weaved through the bumps, the line appeared before him, and he set his rail and waited for the barrel to envelope him. There was no chance of a make, so Bruce hammed it up, throwing a big claim in the split second before obliteration.
The claim was justified. It was a perfect hundred-point ride, surfed with the kind of steeze as only Bruce can bring. It was also enough for him to claim victory. Clarke-Jones came in second, Dorian third and Andy Irons came in fourth. It was Peter Mel in fifth, and Slater in sixth. Not surprisingly a very proud local community roared as Bruce was named the champion. One of their own had claimed the most celebrated trophy in big wave surfing.
The win and quite possibly that wave lit a Bunsen burner under Bruce's arse, and a few days later he made the finals of the Pipe Masters. Bruce came forth, but the result saw him climb from the QS doldrums to a qualifying position on the Championship Tour for 2005. He went on to place ninth that year.