HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. - President, Chief Surf Forecaster and Founder of Surfline.com, Sean Collins is among an extraordinary group of watermen being inducted in the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, at 10 a.m. Friday, July 25 in front of Huntington Surf And Sport (corner of PCH and Main). Collins was the first person to accurately forecast swells on a regular basis in the ’70s and early ’80s. He joins fellow 2008 inductees Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew.
“Wow! I’m still surprised and so greatly honored to be selected for this incredible honor by my peers,” said Collins. “Shoot, I was just originally trying to figure out ways to score more waves for myself and began sharing my work with a few people who wanted to do the same, and then look what happened. I’ve been so lucky to be able to follow my passion and then also to be recognized and rewarded for it.”
A surfer, sailor and self-taught meteorologist, Collins pioneered and created the first ongoing surf forecast available to the surfing public via Surfline and 976-SURF in 1985. In 1992, he added a subscription fax service and in 1995 launched Surfline.com. Collins developed the very first live “Surfcam” in 1996, the precedent for the worldwide camera network available on Surfline.com today. Over the past 30 years, he has developed 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, event producers and nearly every surf company in the world. He also helps to direct an exclusive crew of Big Wave riders - Parsons, Gerlach, Shane Dorian, Laird Hamilton, Greg and Rusty Long, Jamie Sterling, and many more - to chase the world’s largest waves.
Well-deserved accolades finally began in the summer of 1999 when Collins was named one of the “25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century” by Surfer Magazine. Surfer Magazine also named Sean the “8th Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry” in the summer of 2002 and in 2006, Los Angeles Times Magazine West placed Collins in its TOP 100 People who wield the most Power and Influence in Southern California.
Born in Pasadena in 1952, Sean Robb 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. Sailing around California as well as co-skippering races to Mexico and Hawaii, Collins first became interested in meteorology as it related to sailing. A Seal Beach surfer since age eight, he competed in local WSA events and the Katin Team Challenge with some success and was sponsored by Harbour Surfboards. He spent two years at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the big island, frequently ditching class to surf.
Around the time of his graduation from Long Beach’s Wilson High, Collins’ sailing became more 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 all of Baja and soloed Scorpion Bay around 1970. I’ve been in storms 500 miles out at sea, and then surfed the same swells the next day. I was always monitoring the ocean and then looking at charts to plan my surfing and sailing, and that’s how I developed a weather sense.”
Collins attended two years at Long Beach Community College, but received no formal training beyond a couple courses in meteorology. He worked in restaurants to ensure a flexible schedule and set about studying weather charts to hopefully predict future swells. The north swells were easy, but calling the southern hemisphere was another story due to the lack of any weather inforrmation.
He received late-night weather faxes from New Zealand via a crude shortwave radio, comparing the week-old charts to the surf behind his Surfside Colony home. Collins raided the National Weather Service library in Los Angeles, studied his charts, compared his surf observations 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.
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. He still flies to Mexico about 10 times a year for the best swells. Sometimes the pros join him, other times it’s Collins’ two surfing sons. Often he just disappears on his own to surf solo in the great waves he has spent a lifetime studying.
“Sean Collins has literally transformed the way surfers chase waves around the world. From Huntington Beach to Mexico and Fiji, the entire surf industry has come to rely on his expertise in surf forecasting,” said Surfers’ Hall of Fame founder Aaron Pai.
The Surfers’ Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of business owners, surfers and surf industry professionals based on contribution, dedication, integrity and revolution to the sport of surfing. The Surfers’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony is open to the public, free-of-charge. Further information is available at HSSSurf.com/hall.