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Surfline founder Sean Collins dies


By LAYLAN CONNELLY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The words "Follow Your Passions" will forever be inscribed in concrete on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street.

Sean Collins, the founder of Surfline.com, wrote the phrase when he was inducted into the Surfers Hall of Fame in 2008 and lived by those words. The influential surfer dedicated his life to following waves, tracking winds and sharing stories of swells with the world.

 

Article Tab: collins-sean
Sean Collins, founder and president of Surfline.com, died at age 59.
LEONARD ORTIZ, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Collins died Monday and was taken to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, according to the Orange County Coroner's Office. The Seal Beach resident was 59.

His youngest son, A.J., said Collins was playing tennis at his club in Newport about 2 p.m. when he died suddenly from a heart attack. The family was together, trying to grapple with the news.

For the surf community, his sudden death is a loss of one of the most influential surfers in the world who changed the way people sought out waves around the world.

Collins founded the Huntington Beach-based Surfline, which started as a phone service and became one of the most powerful surf forecasting web sites in the world, guiding surfers who once aimlessly searched for waves but now had information readily available to predict the best windows for waves.

Peter "P.T." 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."

Collins started tracking weather patterns while spending hours at sea with his father on a sailboat. He had no formal training, just a few courses and a passion.

By the early 1980s, friends would ask for his advice on where to hit the waves. Then surfers he didn't know started calling.

He teamed up with some Orange County businessmen to help create a phone line called Surfline. He eventually ended up buying that company and launching the largest surf forecast web site in the world.

"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.

The soft-spoken surfer help the everyday surfer who wanted to get some waves before work in the morning or the world's best surfers looking for secret, undiscovered spots. He advised organizers of the world's biggest surf contests of the best days to hold the events.

Government agencies asked for his advice about sand replenishment projects, and he personally sent out alerts to lifeguards and news agencies when big waves were on the way that could threaten beachfront homes.

Collins often told stories about Federales in Mexico in the '80s who thought he worked for the CIA when they uncovered strange-looking machines in his car.

He traveled south to Mexico often when big swells hit, sometimes cutting it very close to destructive hurricanes that hit so he could find the best waves. He was part of an a team that discovered Cortes Bank, a wave only an elite group of surfers can tackle that rarely breaks and only in the best conditions.

One of his favorite things was family surf trips he took with his two sons, Tyler and A.J.

"My No. 1 priority now is surfing with my kids,'' he said in an OC Register article in 2005. "We got some incredibly good sessions. It's great taking off on a big wave and having my kids see me and hoot at me."

Collins was named one of the 25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century by Surfer Magazine in the summer of 1999, the Eighth Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry by Surfer Magazine in the summer of 2002. He sold Surfline in 2000, but stayed on as president and chief forecaster, heading the forecast team. He traveled the world seeking the best waves, and photographed and documented many of his surf sessions.

A few years ago, the Register interviewed Collins about his work for a story about having the best job in O.C.

"I founded the site because I saw a need, but primarily because I wanted to follow my passions and wanted to control my own future. I believe the real secret of my success was to surround myself with really good people who could help to build our business," he said.

"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."

In a biography on Surfline.com, he said this about the secret to success: "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."

Information about a service is pending. He is survived by his wife Daren, and sons Tyler and A.J.

A personal note on how Sean Collins influenced reporter Laylan Connelly's career.

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