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Kelly Slater: 'I Really Miss Andy'

Kelly Slater -- one of Andy Irons' greatest surf rivals -- is opening up about the sudden passing of his friend ... saying, "I'm lucky to have known him and had the times we had together."

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In a statement, released today, Slater says, "I feel blessed that we worked through the differences we had and I was able to learn what I'm made of because of Andy."

Slater continues ... "He was the most intense competitor I've ever known and one of the most sensitive people. He had so much life left in him and it hurts to think about."

Check out the full statement after the jump ...

"Andy was an absolutely gifted individual. I'm lucky to have known him and had the times we had together.

I feel blessed that we worked through the differences we had and I was able to learn what I'm made of because of Andy.

We enjoyed many quiet times together with our girls in the last year and I got to know a happy, funny, innocent kid who was happy to live every second with the people he loved. I'm so sad.

My thoughts are with Bruce and Lyndie and their parents and all of his many friends around the world. It's a huge and far too premature loss for all of us.

He was the most intense competitor I've ever known and one of the most sensitive people. He had so much life left in him and it hurts to think about.

We look forward to his memory living on with our memories of him and his child on the way. There are a lot of uncles awaiting his arrival.

I really miss Andy. He had a really good heart.

With love,

Kelly"
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