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Surfing world champion Irons dies aged 32
By Ben Horne
11:43 AEST Wed Nov 3 2010

The surfing world is mourning with shock news of three-time world champion Andy Irons' death at age 32.

Irons was forced to withdraw from round one of the current Rip Curl Pro Search world championship tour event in Puerto Rico with illness over the weekend, and then flew out of the island.

The American died during a stop over, believed to be in Dallas, Texas, on Tuesday on his way back home to Kauai, Hawaii where he was to seek treatment.

It's believed Irons was battling a severe case of dengue fever, a debilitating viral disease.

Surfers and event organisers at the Rip Curl Search in Puerto Rico were devastated after receiving the news.

Irons was a popular surfer on tour, who won the world title three times in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and for many years was the main rival to nine-times world champion Kelly Slater.

He had 20 world tour event wins and is the only surfer to have won at every location on the ASP tour.

He is survived by his wife Lyndie Dupuis.

A statement was released from Irons' family via the ASP World Tour.

"The world of surfing mourns an incredibly sad loss today with the news that Hawaii's Andy Irons has died," the statement read.

"Andy was a beloved husband and a true champion. Irons, 32, withdrew from a professional surfing event in Puerto Rico last weekend due to illness and passed away during a lay over en route to his home in Kauai, Hawaii.

"At this time the family sincerely thanks his friends and fans for their support and asks that the community respect their privacy. The family also asks not to be contacted so their focus can remain on one another during this time of profound loss."

Rip Curl event organisers were planning to meet shortly to determine whether they should cancel the remainder of the competition or continue on in Irons' honour.

"We're still getting our key people together so there's nothing to really discuss at the moment," said event manager, Brooke Farris.

"We haven't made any announcement as such."

Australian former world champion Mark Occhilupo was left shattered by the news, describing Irons as one of his best friends.

"(Australian surfer) Joel (Parkinson) rang me this morning ... and I just broke down, I went to my wife and couldn't stop crying," the 1999 world champion told Fox Sports.

"It's just really, really heart-wrenching ... I'm devastated.

"He was such a vibrant, lovely person to be around."