Sean Collins (surf forecaster)

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Sean Collins
Sean Robb Collins

(1952-04-08)April 8, 1952
DiedDecember 26, 2011(2011-12-26) (aged 59)
Known forFounder of Surfline

Sean Robb Collins (April 8, 1952 – December 26, 2011) was the American founder of Surfline and a noted figure in the areas of surfing and surf forecasting.[1]


Collins was born in Pasadena, California.[2][3][4] His father, Whitney Collins, was a former Navy lieutenant who enjoyed sailboat racing and owned a 45-foot Newporter ketch, "Leprechaun", berthed in the Long Beach marina and biking distance from Collins' Long Beach home. Collins' early experiences sailing with his father instilled a passion for the ocean and meteorology.[3][5] Much of his knowledge of meteorology was self-taught. While Long Beach has almost no surf because of its breakwater, Collins was part of a vibrant surf culture at Woodrow Wilson high school (class of 1970), where surf film director Bruce Brown graduated earlier, and world-class woman surfer, Jericho Poppler, was a classmate.

In the early years of Collins' surf forecasting he would record weather reports and forecasts from the Southern Hemisphere, which he received via shortwave radio.[2] He also studied charts and data from the National Weather Service library. By comparing these various data sources with his observations of the surf, he devised formulas for predicting how global weather events would affect near-shore surf conditions; these models were eventually combined into a set of swell-modeling algorithms nicknamed "LOLA".[2]

In the 1970s, Collins spent extensive time traveling and surfing in Mexico. He converted marine weather forecasting equipment for use in an automobile so that he would have advance knowledge of where swells and offshore weather patterns were developing, and in turn used that information to find the best locations for surfing.[5]

In 1985, Collin's founded a surf report service called Surfline. The company started as a call-in service, which provided verbal condition reports for various surf breaks around Southern California.[6] In 1995, Surfline moved online, offering live video streams of surf breaks in addition to written surf reports.[7]

Surfline eventually expanded to offer editorial coverage of surfing, and is now one of the most prominent websites related to the sport.[8]


In 1999, Collins was named one of the "25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century" by Surfer magazine.[2] In 2006, he was named "one of the 100 most powerful people in Southern California" by The Los Angeles Times' West Magazine, for his influence on the region's surfers.[9]

In 2008, in honor of his contributions to surf forecasting, Collins was inducted into the Surfers' Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach, California.[10][11]

In 2012, Collins was inducted into the Surfer's Walk of Fame and received the Surf Culture Award in Huntington Beach, California.[12]

In August 2012, Sean Collins was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the SIMA Waterman's Ball in Laguna Niguel, California.[13]


He died on December 26, 2011 in Newport Beach, California, aged 59, from a heart attack.[14][15] His death was memorialized by a paddle out by about 200 surfers in what was described as the "biggest memorial tribute ever held for a surfer in Huntington Beach", with about 2,000 people in attendance.[16]


  1. ^ Sean Collins Obituary -
  2. ^ a b c d Cherie Whyte, Surfer's Village, May 5, 2008, "Sean Collins to be inducted into the Surfers Hall of Fame". Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Surfline: Surfing A to Z, The Surfing Encyclopedia, "Sean Collins Biography", Retrieved 05/10/2011
  4. ^ "Surfline's Sean Collins To Be Inducted Into Surfers' Hall Of Fame". Transworld Surf. June 5, 2008. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Damien Hobgood, ESPN, August 13, 2009, "The Man Behind The Weather Map". Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  6. ^ Marc Lacey, Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1991, "Riding a Wave of Success". Retrieved May 10, 2011
  7. ^ Joe Haakenson, Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, April 20, 2011. "Before There was Surfline, There were Landlines." Retrieved May 10, 2011
  8. ^ Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, January 27, 2008, "Cameras Show if Surf Is Good, but Surfers Are Getting in Way." Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2006, "The West 100." Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  10. ^ Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2008, "Riding High." Retrieved May 10, 2011
  11. ^ Surfer's Hall of Fame, July 20, 2008, "Surfers' Hall of Fame 2008 Inductees". Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  12. ^ Mike Cianciulli,, August 2, 2012, "Sean Collins Inducted into Surfing Walk of Fame". Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  13. ^ Laylan Connelly,, August 13, 2012, "Icons honored at Waterman’s Ball, surfers raise $400,000". Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  14. ^ "Sean Collins (April 8, 1952 – December 26, 2011)". Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  15. ^ Connelly, Laylan (December 26, 2011). "Surfline founder Sean Collins dies". The Orange County Register. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "Thousands show for Surfline founder paddle out". The Orange County Register. January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2012.