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Surfline.com founder Sean Collins dies of a heart attack

December 27, 2011 | 11:43 am

Sean Collins, founder of surfline.com, has died

Sean Collins, a hall of fame surfer whose online company revolutionized the way surfers tracked waves, has died at the age of 59.

Collins, the founder, president and chief forecaster of Surfline.com, suffered a heart attack while playing tennis Monday in Orange County and died at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian shortly afterward.

Surfer magazine named Collins one of the 25 most influential surfers of the century in 1999, and he was inducted into the Surfers' Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach in 2008. But he attained equal fame, if not greater, as an entrepreneur, the Huntington Beach Independent reported.

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In 1995, Collins founded Surfline.com, a website that features free surf reports from around the country. The Huntington Beach-based company became an essential online destination not only for surfers but for lifeguards, the National Weather Service and even branches of the military, who used it to predict ocean conditions.

"Sean's many accomplishments in surf science and forecasting made him one of the most influential surfers of our time," the company declared in a statement. "Surfline's entire staff -- as well as countless surfers worldwide -- are in a state of shock at the news."

Surfline installed live webcams at seaside locations around the world to provide online viewers with a real-time look at conditions. In an interview with the Independent earlier this year, Collins said he initially created the site because he personally wanted to know where the best waves were, but it quickly became apparent that he wasn't the only interested party.

"Most young people today have grown up in the Internet age," Collins said. "They don't realize what it was like in the '70s and '80s. Before we had Surfline, it was really like the Dark Ages. It was hard to find data to forecast storms, let alone swells. Basically, you had to rely on satellite information and usually half the satellites were down."

A Southern California native and Seal Beach resident, Collins began surfing at the age of 8. After graduating from Wilson High School in Long Beach, he attended Long Beach City College and worked as a professional photographer, waiter and bartender.

Along the way, he developed a passion to complement his surfing: poring through the National Weather Service library and studying faxes from around the world to predict swells. In 1984, he joined a fledgling company called Surfline, which offered surf forecasts by phone, then left to start a rival company called Wavetrak.

Collins bought out Surfline in 1990 and, five years later, launched its online version. According to the website, nearly 1.5 million people visit it every month.

Aaron Pai, the owner of Huntington Surf & Sport, said Collins had a revolutionary effect on the surfing world.

"He was a great person, a great family man and a great friend of ours," he said. "We're truly going to miss him. He changed the way surfers chased waves over the last few decades and really influenced a whole entire generation of surfers on being able to track swells and plan their work schedules and holidays and trips."

Collins is survived by his wife, Daren, and sons, Tyler and A.J.


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-- Michael Miller, Times Community News

Photo: Sean Collins, founder of Surfline.com. Credit: Douglas Zimmerman / Times Community News