Paddle out in tribute of Andy Irons at Hanlei Bay, Kauai, November 14, 2010. Photo courtesy of Lachlan MacKinnon.

On Sunday, November 14, 2010, Hanalei Bay, Kauai, offered a window into heaven as thousands gathered from around Hawaii and the world to celebrate the life of three-time world surfing champion Andy Irons. At the shore of Andy%uFFFDs cherished home, family, friends, and those whose lives have been touched by the 32-year-old gathered to bid farewell to the surfer, father, brother, son and husband who inspired a generation.

In the embrace of majestic Hanalei, Andy%uFFFDs younger brother Bruce led close to 1,000 friends in a paddle out beyond the rising waves to encircle a double-hull canoe that carried Andy%uFFFDs wife Lyndie, his parents and close friends. On shore, thousands more watched on as Andy%uFFFDs ashes were released into the sea and flowers poured from a helicopter circling above. (See video clip below.)

At the same time, synchronized tributes were taking place around the world from Australia to Europe, and mainland USA in the greatest outpouring of aloha the surfing world has ever seen. It was a fitting tribute to a young man whose home-grown achievements, passion for life and family, and committed character proved that childhood dreams are worth chasing.

Mahalo to the Irons Family, who opened their arms to share their son with the world and embraced us all today. Mahalo to the community of Hanalei for allowing us to partake in this day and who will continue to support the Irons family for many years to come.

Photo courtesy of ASP-Schultz. Andy Irons in Portugal.