Legendary Founder of Surfline Dies

Sean Collins, Seal Beach resident and founder of Surfline, suffered an apparent heart attack Monday.

Sean Collins, surfing hall-of-famer, founder of Surfline and one of the sport’s most influential figures, has died.

According to friends of the family, the 59-year-old had a heart attack while playing tennis Monday.

Collins combined science and technology with his passion for surfing and became the world’s foremost authority for surf reports.  Surfers worldwide turned to his forecasts to find the next big swell, and Collins’ Surfline was the first to install beach webcams around the world to provide real-time images of surf conditions.

“I call him the Steve Jobs of Seal Beach,” said surfer Jake Tellkamp. “He is an innovator. More surfers turn to Surfline than any other site in the world.”

Studying charts and maps, and consulting meteorologists and spotters around the world via fax and shortwave radio, the former Long Beach Community College student developed his own algorithm for forecasting surf from his Seal Beach home. And in 1990, he founded Surfline to channel his passions.

“He brought it to a whole new level,” said surf writer Jeff Malanca, who reports for several California radio stations as Surf Junky Jeff. “He was the first to use webcams [for surf reports]. No one had ever done that before. It was huge when he did that.”

Collins was named one of the "25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century" and the "8th Most Powerful Surfer in the Surf Industry" by Surfer Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times' West Magazine named him among the Top 100 People who wield the most power and influence in Southern California. In 2008, he was inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame, and his handprints and footprints can be found in the stone next to the Duke statue in Huntington Beach on Pacific Coast Highway.

A longtime fixture in the Seal Beach community, a sponsor of surf contests such as the U.S. Open, and an organizer of community events, Collins' impact has been tremendous, Tellkamp said.

In the 1970s, Collins competed for the Harbour Surf Team. According to a statement released by Surfline on Monday, "Collins also spent the last decade directing an exclusive crew of big-wave riders to chase the largest waves on Earth at any moment -- including Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach, Shane Dorian, Laird Hamilton, Greg and Rusty Long, Jamie Sterling, and many more."

“The surf community in Seal Beach is small and tight-knit,” Tellkamp said. “I think surfers from Seal Beach have always been proud to say Sean Collins is from Seal Beach. He and his sons have been role models for me my entire life.”

Collins’ death rocked the surf world, said Seal Beach surf photographer Scott Durzo. Closer to home, he’ll be missed for his passion for surfing and for the town

He will be sorely missed, added Durzo.

“He has been so influential in the world of surfing,” Durzo said. “His death is going to have a ripple effect around the world.”

Collins is survived by his wife, Daren, and two sons, Tyler and AJ.


Did Sean Collins have an impact on your life? Share your thoughts in the comment box.

Tim Downey December 27, 2011 at 07:07 AM
Sean was a close, long-time friend and tennis buddy. He was fun, and seemed to be friends with everyone. That was his style. He always had a smile and loved to learn all he could about currents, weather patterns, and ideas to incorporate into mediums that could be easily used as tools to disseminate critical information for people. His tracking system for forecasting was literally next to his bed. He was so tenacious about learning and developing systems to track the best surfing anywhere. He was brilliant. He was everyone's friend. He was a wonderful soul who gave so much more to this world than anyone likely will ever know. A better person could not have caught the perfect, endless wave. Ride on, my friend. Cheers!
Karen Ferretti December 27, 2011 at 03:18 PM
I didn't know Sean personally, but his son, AJ, was in the Kindergarten classroom that I worked in at McGaugh. His mom, Daren, was a parent volunteer. Couldn't have been a nicer family. My husband and brother-in-law use Surfline to check out the surf all the time. Sean was definitely an icon in the surf industry, and no doubt he will be missed by his family and extended surf family. His loss will be felt. My condolences to the Collins family........Karen Ferretti
Jackie Connor December 27, 2011 at 03:47 PM
This truly is a great loss to the surfing world. My heart goes out to the Collins family.
Bob Fitzgerald December 28, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Another Seal Beach Surfer departs on a trip and, when we too get there, he will greet us saying "Hey guys, good to see you! This point break has a perfect line up! Come on, surf is up, let's paddle out!". Until that time, Sean, ride one for me... Bob Fitzgerald
Dan Krolczyk December 28, 2011 at 03:28 PM
My daughter caught her first wave yesterday. Thank you to Sean and his family for what you've contributed to the ocean community. Truly, an early loss.


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