Surfers around the world are getting ready to honor Surfline founder and president Sean Collins, who died December 26 from a sudden heart attack. He was 59-years-old. Collins turned a hobby into a profitable surf forecasting business relied-on by many surfers and ocean enthusiasts.
Surfline is known as the go-to provider of information for surfers, distributing it via sites like Surfline.com, Buoyweather.com and Beachlive.com and through roughly 10 to 20 apps. The company also syndicates its weather data to hundreds of sites.
"Weather forecasting has been around a long time but this kind of surf forecasting has only been around since 1985," CEO Jonna Wells.said. "Before that, the reason there was this notion of a surf bum was really, no joke, people who were passionate about surfing had to live nearby or work nearby so they could get out, check the water and surf."
Some surfers only reluctantly admit that using Surfline has increased their frequency of surfing, citing concerns that traditionally-quiet surf spots are more easily exposed with the technology.
"It's kind of a love-hate relationship," said Doug Roosevelt, a surfer from San Francisco who regularly checks Surfline.com. "It's great to know when a swell is coming but unfortunately it's now public information and everyone else knows it too. I tend to be kind of like a home meteorologist and I would almost prefer to dig for that information ... and paint a picture on my own."
Surfline offers more than 100 domestically owned beach web cams and another 100 shared web cams globally. The company says it has subscribers in more than 115 countries.
"I grew up in Hawaii where we would call 596-SURF and it was just a surf report," said Anthony Davis, an employee at Proof Lab, a surf store in Mill Valley, Calif. "It was a lot different then because we didn't have cameras and all this cool stuff online where you can check first."
Collins is considered responsible for getting professional surfers to Cortes Bank, an underwater mountain chain that had never been surfed before, about 100 miles off the coast of Southern California. Collins was inducted into the Surfers Hall of Fame in 2008.
"For professional surfers, the guys that chase big waves, he was really their first guru who put them in those conditions," Wells said.
The main memorial paddle-out in Collins' memory will take place in Huntington Beach, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 8. Other paddle-outs are planned in China, Hawaii, and Tavarua Island, Fiji.