founder Sean Collins dies at 59

AP News
Posted: Dec 27, 2011 12:02 PM founder Sean Collins dies at 59

There was a time when surfers spent much of their time behind-the-wheel on "surfin' safari" journeys in an aimless search for waves.

Sean Collins changed all that.

His telephone Surfline reports based on observations from a stable of seasoned wave riders up and down the California coast evolved with technology into a worldwide report on surf spots worldwide via his website. More than 500,000 people log onto the website each month.

Collins, 59, collapsed while playing tennis on Monday afternoon in Newport Beach, his youngest son A.J. Collins said. He was declared dead a short time later at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.

The death of Surfline's founder, president and forecaster was first reported by the Orange County Register (

When he was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfers' Hall of Fame in 2008, Collins wrote the words "Follow Your Passions" in concrete at the shrine on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street.

"The personal payoff is the lifestyle of continuing to be able to chase great surf around the world while getting paid for it, and I couldn't do that without my great team of people," Collins said.

Peter Townend, surfing's first world champion, remembers Collins coming to a meeting at Surfing Magazine and explaining this new phone service.

"We were all going, `We don't know if that will ever work," he recalled. "And now look at us. It's the No. 1 communication to our world."

"We've all ridden more waves because of Sean Collins. It's that simple," Townend said.

Collins began surfing in Seal Beach when he was 8 years old. He began weather tracking while spending hours at sea with his father on a 50-foot sailboat. He had no formal training, just a few meteorology courses at Long Beach Community College and a passion.

Surfline's telephone service began in the 1980s. From the everyday surfer looking for waves before work to surf contest organizers, Surfline became crucial for modern wave riders. He personally 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.

He set up the first live "surfcam" in 1996.

Collins, who lived in Seal Beach, was named one of the 25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century by Surfer Magazine in 1999 and the eighth Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry by Surfer Magazine in 2002.

He sold Surfline in 2000, but stayed on as president and chief forecaster.

Besides his son A.J., Collins is survived by his wife Daren and eldest son Tyler.

Funeral arrangements haven't been announced.


Information from: The Orange County Register,