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Monday, December 26, 2011
Surf-forecasting pioneer Collins dies

By Jake Howard
ESPN.com

Sean Collins, founder of Surfline.com and considered the godfather of surf forecasting, died at the age of 59.

Surfline founder Sean Collins died Monday afternoon near his home in Seal Beach, Calif., according to the Orange County, Calif. coroner's office. No cause of death has been given. Collins was 59.

The founder of Surfline.com and godfather of surf forecasting, Collins was one of the true innovators of the sport. He grew up in Seal Beach in the 1960s and got his start providing daily, phone-in surf reports for the Lifeguard Department in that town.

Gaining notoriety for his spot-on reporting and insight, Collins' interest in forecasting blossomed. He was the first surfer to manipulate NOAA's weather and oceanic data to provide accurate surf forecasts and founded Surfline in March of 1985.

Surfline began as a phone service but became one of the first surf websites in 1995, and eventually grew into the most-visited surfing website on the Internet. In 1999, Surfer magazine named Collins one of the 25 most influential surfers of the 20th Century.

"Various weather services and university libraries were places where I could look for papers about how to forecast swells, calculate swell decay, estimate swell speed and great circle routes, etc," Collins said in an ESPN interview with Damien Hobgood in 2009.

"There was so little swell forecasting information available anywhere at the time other than a study done here or there where I could glean a few tips, but nothing in the way of teaching me everything I needed to know," Collins said in the interview. "So, using what I had experienced from my open-ocean sailing experiences in forecasting storms, a few tips from the research papers, my sporadic shortwave radio Southern Hemisphere charts from New Zealand, and my daily surf logs, I reverse-engineered the process and taught myself how to forecast swells by trial and error."

Collins leaves behind a wife and two sons.