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Surfline Founder Sean Collins, one of the most influential members of the surf community, passed away Monday at 59 after suffering a heart attack while playing tennis.
Surfline has a moving tribute to Collins on its website, and OC Register reporter Laylan Connelly also wrote a touching story about Collins, how he turned his passion into a successful business, and his tragic passing.
Our sympathies go out to his family, to his large extended family in the surfing community, and to the Surfline team.
Below, I asked Michael Tomson to recreate the story he told about Sean at Sean's induction to the Surfers' Hall of Fame in 2008. I also included a letter the Surfline team shared with me from the former Lifeguard Chief in San Diego about how Sean's forecasting services helped save lives in San Diego, and about Sean's generous spirit.
Michael Tomson: "He once told me to look out the window at 12:10 p.m. and a 12 foot set would roll through and clean out everyone in the lineup at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu.
I said, "That's impossible, it's 11:00 a.m. and it's only 5ft. out there - I'm looking at it". He said "No, look at the horizon at 12:10, give or take a minute or so and you will see a huge set".
At 12:09 p.m. it happened - giant set came through and cleaned up everyone. I called him and told him and he laughed and said, "Well you know all forecasting is a guess when you get down to it, but this one looked pretty clear to me."
It's hard to overestimate the impact Sean Collins has had on the lives of those who ride waves. Before Sean Collins we didn't know when a swell was coming, didn't know how big it was or what direction it was coming from. Didn't know how long it would last or what the conditions would be like. Before Sean Collins we couldn't look at Oceanside on a live cam or Jeffery's Bay, or Pipeline or hundreds of other spots. We didn't know what the swell was like in Indonesia or Fiji or Mexico next week. Sean enhanced the surfing experience of millions of people. He was a visionary.
People will say he was a scientist, a brilliant meteorologist and he was to a point, but then so much more. His gift was translation - he took a complicated medium and bite sized the pieces that were important to us, and in so doing created the mosaic that is surf forecasting today.
His passing deserves honor and respect. It's just so sad a man has to die before his contribution to the world is recognized."
Letter from former Lifeguard Chief B. Chris Brewster: