R.I.P Sean Collins 1952-2011

Sean Collins may be the most influential surfer of our time, even more so than Kelly Slater. Think about it: has Kelly ever affected when and if you go surfing? Has he ever faxed or called you to say that waves were coming? Heck, you've probably never seen the guy surf in person. You haven't likely shared the lineup with Collins, either, but his impact on the common surfer is undeniable.

Born in Southern California, Sean Collins' fondness for the ocean was cultivated aboard a 50-foot sailboat owned by his father, Whitney, a general contractor and navy lieutenant during World War II. Venturing around Long Beach as well as entering races to Mexico and Hawaii, Collins first became interested in meteorology as it related to sailing and surfing. A Seal Beach surfer since age eight, he competed in local WSA events with success. He spent two years at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the big island, frequently ditching class to surf and explore new spots on the outer islands. More explorer than competitor, he nonetheless narrowly missed the finals of the inaugural Katin Challenge in 1977 surfing for the Harbour Surf Team, advancing past many world renowned pros in big, closed-out surf at Huntington Cliffs, which was eventually won by Shaun Tomson.

Around the time of his graduation from Long Beach's Wilson High, Collins' sailing became interrelated with his surfing. "My favorite part of the races was bringing the boat back," he remembers. "We could take our time and search out surf spots. I explored Baja and found so many great surf spots, and soloed Scorpion Bay around 1969. I've been in storms 100 miles out at sea, then surfed the same swells the next day. I was always looking at charts to plan my surfing and sailing, and developed a keen sense about the ocean, which is at the core of what I live for today."

Collins attended Long Beach Community College for two years of studies, but received no formal training beyond a couple courses in meteorology. As a professional photographer in the 70's and 80's he worked for Yary Sports Photography, the Berzon Talent Agency, and was a contributing photographer to Surfing Magazine. Collins also worked as a waiter and bartender at the Hindquarter restaurant in Long Beach to ensure a flexible schedule for surfing and chasing waves, and set about studying weather charts to hopefully predict future swells. The north swells were easy, but calling the southern hemis was another story. He received late-night weather faxes from New Zealand via a crude shortwave radio, comparing the week-old charts to the surf behind his Seal Beach home. Collins raided the National Weather Service library in Los Angeles, studied his charts and eventually devised his own formulas for making sense of it all. By the early '80s, he was adept at forecasting swells and shared the information with his friends. "People started calling," he reflects, "'You don't know me,' they'd say. 'I'm a friend of a friend, but what do you think Mexico's gonna be like next week?'"

Collins and wife Daren had their first son, Tyler, in 1983, prompting Collins to seek more secure employment. In 1984, when some Orange County businessmen requested his services as a founder to develop proprietary surf reporting and forecasting services for a fledgling phone venture called Surfline, he jumped at the chance. After two years dedicated to the operation without promising long term incentives or prospects, he left to begin a rival company called Wavetrak. The new project was so successful that he bought out Surfline in 1990. Collins soon expanded his products and services to other mediums and offered a subscription based WaveFax, and in 1995 he launched Surfline.com, a web site featuring free surf reports from around the country. Collins also developed the very first live "Surfcam" in February 1996, the precedent for famous surf camera network available on Surfline.com today. Throughout the late 90's, the free reports and live surf cameras on Surfline.com severely cut into the company's primary phone and fax revenue, but he ignored the short-term losses in view of the bigger picture.

The foresight paid off in 1999 when Surfline became sought after by every new Internet surf site. At the time Surfline was attracting 500,000 unique users each month, despite the detractors who felt Collins was ruining the sport's inherent sense of adventure while drawing increased crowds to the lineup. Swell.com eventually acquired Surfline, leaving Collins at the controls of the Surfline business to help drive traffic to the new ecommerce site. After the Dotcom crash in 2001, Surfline separated from Swell to become an independent company focusing on the core business of surf reporting, forecasting, and surfing editorial. Surfline.com has since grown to become one of the largest sports sites in the world with nearly 1.5 million unique people visiting the site each month.

Collins now serves as President, Chief Surf Forecaster, and Founder for Surfline. Over the past 30 years, he has helped to develop a sophisticated, proprietary system of wave forecasting - much of which is currently used in LOLA, Surfline's Global Swell Model. Through Surfline, Collins provides weather and forecasting services to every lifeguard agency in California, the Coast Guard, US Navy Seals, National Weather Service, numerous television and movie production companies, multiple domestic and international governmental agencies and nearly every surf company in the world.

Collins also directs an exclusive crew of Big Wave riders to chase the largest waves on Earth at any moment - including Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach,Shane DorianLaird Hamiltion, Greg and Rusty Long, Jamie Sterling, and many more. Still a resident of Seal Beach, he frequents the lineup at Surfside Colony and many secret breaks in Mexico with sons Tyler and A.J., both of whom are avid watermen with a keen interest in surf exploration and weather. Collins has been surfing and wave exploring by land, air, and sea for more than 40 years and is still holding vast knowledge of many secret spots south of the border. The Surfline office staff also knows a good south swell is confirmed and on the way when Collins disappears out of the office on one of his many solo surf trips to Baja.

Sean Collins was named one of the "25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century" by Surfer Magazine in the summer of 1999, the "8th Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry" by Surfer Magazine in the summer of 2002, and in the TOP 100 People who wield the most Power and Influence in Southern California by the Los Angeles Times WEST Magazine in the summer of 2006. Finally in July 2008, Collins was inducted in the Surfer's Hall of Fame, and his hand and foot prints are immortalized in stone next to the DUKE statue in front of Huntington Surf & Sport, on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street in Huntington Beach, California.

When asked recently if there was a secret to success that he would want to convey to the kids coming up surfing these days, Collins responded, "Really simple things when you think about it. Mostly just follow your passion, try to be a really good person and a good judge of character, and then just surround yourself with a great team and really good people. Add lots of luck and all kinds of great things can happen!"

-- Jason Borte and Surfline Editorial

Pic of the day

Waves around the world

Manifesto house made with pallets and shipping containers

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The one presented here was built in Chile for 79000 euros. It’s made with two 40′ shipping containers and two 20′ .

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Stereo’s creative roots trace back one of its original inspirations: American Jazz & Blues music and the rich style, design and culture that went with it.

Stereo owners Jason Lee and Chris Pastras started out riding what are affectionately called “Banana Boards” as early as 1979 and now, after professional skateboarding careers spanning two decades, they still enjoy riding their collectible versions, which inspired the “Vinyl Series” boards today.

Whether its cruising to a skate spot, bombing a hill, getting around town, skating to a bar or riding your way around campus in-between classes, Stereo’s Vinyl Series Skateboard come complete and ready to roll. Stash it in your backpack, trunk or locker when you’re not skating it.

Merry Christmas