HANALEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An unprecedented gathering on Sunday at Kauai's North Shore brought together the world's best surfers, longtime friends and family, and countless fans, all sharing their sorrows while celebrating the life of Hawaii's three-time world champ.
There were both tears and plenty of smiles along the shoreline in Hanalei. It was a day of remembrance unlike any in Kauai's history.
Cars began arriving in the small town early in the morning, with police directing traffic through the one-lane bridge adorned with one of the many signs honoring Andy Irons.
It's been less than two weeks now since Andy Irons passed away. For the huge crowd, it was a moment both somber and joyous.
The weather and the surf cooperated and all the things that make Hanalei one of the most beautiful places in the world came together Sunday, and it was definitely one of the places to be.
It was a powerful event, a real moment of unity, not just for the surf world but for all of Kauai.
With surfboards, flowers and heavy hearts, thousands streamed into Hanalei Bay transforming Andy Irons' hometown beach, Pine Trees, into a massive living memorial.
Longtime locals say it's easily the most unique beach gathering in North Shore, if not Kauai history.
Everywhere you looked, there were tributes to Irons.
Under a big tent was a wall of memories.
"He was a very humble person. He gave to all these people, you know. If you don't have something, he'll give it to you straight off his back, guaranteed," said Nelson Kure, Irons' friend.
On the berm where Irons used to check the surf stood a gigantic tribute made out of leaves in the shape of Irons' initials, marking the spot where his family and closest friends paused in prayer before heading to the ocean.
A paddle-out in gorgeous blue skies, light winds, and a rising swell that was fun but not scary, just small enough for kids and grandparents to punch through, joining the massive flotilla of Irons' army of admirers.
And then there was Irons' mom, Danielle, getting a lift from the water patrol. It was a chicken-skin moment for the cheering crowd.
"I love him unconditionally forever and I just wish he could see how loved he was," said pro surfer, Keala Kennelly, Irons' friend.
After the flower drops and the splashing, it all suddenly made sense to the teary-eyed surfers who were stunned by the size of the crowd.
"He just touched everybody. I mean, people who didn't even know him, he inspired them. He's just an amazing person," said Kennelly.
"I think his memory will never die and all the kids who look up to him, they're going to try and be like him and hopefully bring home some more world titles because he's truly an inspiration to everybody," said Myles Padaca, Irons' friend.
"This is the hugest event ever. This is in history, Hawaii's history, for sure," said Kure.