The day Bruce Irons rode the pink gun into oblivion at Cloudbreak.
With all respect, Bruce Irons is a complicated kind of guy. Much of these complications only came after 2 December 2010, the date of the death of his brother, but either way he seems a little troubled. The last time I interviewed him he was at the Oakley Pro Keramas – Bruce had the sponsors wildcard – and the guy was calm, serene, thoughtful and funny. He was also emotional, talking about his brother, remembering some wild old stuff.
The only time when he's not troubled, however, is when his instinct kicks in when faced with a massive wave, a gnarly section, or a difficult decision to make. Bruce acts on instinct, and when it comes to surfing, his intuition runs deep.
Decidedly not scared, Bruce has done several crazy things in his life on a surfboard. Who can forget his winning 100-point ride at the 2006 Eddie, when he surfed straight into the shore break?
There was also his crazy 2011 ride at Teahupo'o, and nosedive into the pit, that would have killed a lesser man.
There is one more ride, a wave that mattered, that Brucie rode at Cloudbreak, in 2011. It was a giant set on a monstrous swell, and Bruce borrowed a board to paddle into one of the waves of his life. That he had the courage to paddle out is startling enough. It was like a war zone out there.
On that day, in July 2011, Cloudies was doing its best big wave spot impersonation, but the waves were flawless, not a drop out of place. Even so, when it gets that big at Cloudbreak, it's a challenging wave to surf, and the wave breaks hard, and slabs remorselessly. It looks fluid, but there are large sections just rearing all over the joint.
Bruce was undergunned and had to ride a borrowed 10'1" Stretch-model that he grabbed from Nathan Fletcher. The board was bright pink and was soon dubbed 'the Pink Pony', and it was the most luminous board out there in that wild lineup.
When that set came, however, Bruce did not flinch. Entry required some high-speed paddling into a massive set wave, mustering all that he had. To the screams and cheers of the spectators, he committed to the bomb, not hesitating for a split-second.
"That was the biggest board I have ever used going left," said Bruce of the Pink Pony. He was much more used to his standard big wave barrel-charger 7'6". The extra length made it a challenge for Bruce to turn sharply off the rail.
Still, he made the drop, and turned into the barrel, guiding the board into a giant cavern by holding onto the rail with his right hand and easing it off the bottom.
Bruce got the vision of his life. One of the biggest, throatiest tubes of his lifetime. Even though he got demolished at the end, it was still one of the best rides of the session and the year, in a season that saw multiple giants swells marching in.
"I visualized it five minutes before I got that wave, it will stick in my mind forever," said Irons in an interview with ESPN Magazine afterwards. "I get chicken skin thinking about it, even though I almost drowned."
Maybe it was the board, or perhaps it was just the perfect line that Irons drew under extreme stress, but the wave seemed to capture the essence of his approach to his life and the way he deals with things – no holding back.