Sean Collins, surfing hall-of-famer, founder of Surfline and one of the sport’s most influential figures, has died.
According to friends of the family, the 59-year-old had a heart attack while playing tennis Monday.
Collins combined science and technology with his passion for surfing and became the world’s foremost authority for surf reports. Surfers worldwide turned to his forecasts to find the next big swell, and Collins’ Surfline was the first to install beach webcams around the world to provide real-time images of surf conditions.
“I call him the Steve Jobs of Seal Beach,” said surfer Jake Tellkamp. “He is an innovator. More surfers turn to Surfline than any other site in the world.”
Studying charts and maps, and consulting meteorologists and spotters around the world via fax and shortwave radio, the former Long Beach Community College student developed his own algorithm for forecasting surf from his Seal Beach home. And in 1990, he founded Surfline to channel his passions.
“He brought it to a whole new level,” said surf writer Jeff Malanca, who reports for several California radio stations as Surf Junky Jeff. “He was the first to use webcams [for surf reports]. No one had ever done that before. It was huge when he did that.”
Collins was named one of the "25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century" and the "8th Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry" by Surfer Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times' West Magazine named him among the Top 100 People who wield the most power and influence in Southern California. In 2008, he was inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame, and his handprints and footprints can be found in the stone next to the Duke statue in Huntington Beach on Pacific Coast Highway.
A longtime fixture in the Seal Beach community, a sponsor of surf contests such as the U.S. Open, and an organizer of community events, Collins' impact has been tremendous, Tellkamp said.
In the 1970s, Collins competed for the Harbour Surf Team. According to a statement released by Surfline on Monday, "Collins also spent the last decade directing an exclusive crew of big-wave riders to chase the largest waves on Earth at any moment -- including Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach, Shane Dorian, Laird Hamilton, Greg and Rusty Long, Jamie Sterling, and many more."
“The surf community in Seal Beach is small and tight-knit,” Tellkamp said. “I think surfers from Seal Beach have always been proud to say Sean Collins is from Seal Beach. He and his sons have been role models for me my entire life.”
Collins’ death rocked the surf world, said Seal Beach surf photographer Scott Durzo. Closer to home, he’ll be missed for his passion for surfing and for the town
He will be sorely missed, added Durzo.
“He has been so influential in the world of surfing,” Durzo said. “His death is going to have a ripple effect around the world.”
Collins is survived by his wife, Daren, and two sons, Tyler and AJ.
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