There will be a large paddle out in Huntington Beach on Sunday, Jan. 8 to honor Surfline founder Sean Collins. It will begin at 11 a.m. on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.
Seal Beach has been a breeding ground of surfing industry pioneers since the sport was first brought to California. The town has produced its share of surfing competitors, surfboard makers and shapers, surf shops and surf clothing.
Sean Collins, who started surfing at Seal Beach when he was 8 years old, fit the mold of surfing entrepreneurs who are independent, creative and with a wistful way of following their dreams in ways that enrich the surfing scene.
Collins, who died last week at age 59 after suffering a heart attack while playing tennis in Newport Beach, was the president, chief surf forecaster, and founder for Surfline, the company that has been providing information on where the waves were breaking and whether the surf was up or down.
Before he began his service, surfers had to rely on guesswork or a quick phone call from fellow surfers telling where the best waves were to be had.
It was more than 30 years ago that Collins began offering surf forecasting via a telephone service. In his early days, he penned a surf report column for the Seal Beach Journal, now called the Sun Newspapers.
Collins was a surfer and surf photographer. Although he had no formal training in meteorology or the study of ocean currents and wave patterns, he became an expert observer while sailing with his father.
Collins began by giving advice to his friends on which beaches to hit for the best waves. By the early 1980s, he realized he was getting phone calls from surfers he had never met. That gave him the initial idea to set up Surfline as a telephone service.
From the everyday surfer looking for waves before work to surf contest organizers, Surfline became crucial for modern wave riders. Collins sent out alerts to lifeguards and news agencies when big waves were on the way.
“People tell us we can’t do it, and we’re going to try that much harder,” Collins said in his Hall of Fame induction speech.
In 1996, Collins set up his first live “surfcam.” He eventually grew his enterprise into a string of surfcams or cameras that captured images of waves at surfing beaches around the world. Each month, more than 500,000 people log onto the website to get the forecast and watch live cameras at surfing hot spots.
In time, the largely self-taught Collins helped develop a sophisticated system of wave forecasting. The system has become so well-respected that today Surfline provides weather and forecasting services to every lifeguard agency in California, the Coast Guard, US Navy Seals, National Weather Service, TV stations and movie companies and multiple domestic and international governmental agencies. In fact, it would be hard to find a surf company anywhere that is not tuned in to Surfline.
Surfer Magazine named Collins, who lived in Seal Beach, one of the 25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century in 1999. The magazine also named him the eighth Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry in 2002. He was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 2008.
Collins sold Surfline in 2000, but stayed on as president and chief forecaster.
Collins is survived by his wife, Daren and sons Tyler and A.J.