(CBS) Andy Irons was a three-time world surfing champion who could conquer any wave, but the 32-year-old Hawaii native succumbed to complications from dengue fever.
The news shocked and saddened the surfing world and made clear the danger posed by a disease that is nearly unheard of in the states.
"Andy was one of the greatest surfers of our time," surf wear maker Billabong said on its website. "More than that, he was a much loved son, a devoted husband and a soon-to- be father." Billabong sponsored Irons.
It is believed that Irons contracted dengue fever while surfing in Puerto Rico. The disease is spread by mosquitoes carrying one of four viruses and is common in Southeast Asia, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 100 million contract the disease each year.
Symptoms include high fevers, rashes, headaches and fatigue. It is rarely deadly and usually goes away on its own after a week.
But a related disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever, is very dangerous. Victims can go into a shock-like state and spots of blood appear on and under the skin. Doctors can only treat
the symptoms, not the underlying virus. If patients survive the early shock, they typically survive.
From news reports, it is not yet clear what form of dengue fever Irons had or what complications caused his death.
What is clear, is Irons will be fondly remembered as a champion. He won three straight world titles from 2002 to 2004, according to Bloomberg, and was the only surfer to win at every spot on the elite tour.
He leaves behind his wife, Lyndie, who is pregnant with their first child.