There were a lot of things people could have said about Sean Collins at his memorial paddle-out in Huntington Beach yesterday. "Legend," "greatest forecaster ever," "he changed the sport," all were dangling on the swirling south wind, ready to be plucked from the air like a ripe cliché. But the most common utterance was Collins' devotion to his family and his drive to be the best father he could to his two boys Tyler and AJ -- no easy feat when the world regards you as its preeminent surf chaser. That tells you a lot about the man.
Thousands of people gathered on Sunday on the south side of the Huntington Pier to say a final goodbye to Collins, who made it his business to let us all know when the waves were good -- and when it was the right time to blow off school or work. As reiterated time and time again, he was like the cool dad, always there on the beach, innately understanding that when the waves are good there's nowhere else you should be.
Mike Parsons eulogized him, remembering how Collins took an interest in him and his big-wave pursuits from very early on in his career. Analytical data hounds, the two were a dynamic force. "He taught me everything, I understand it all the way I do because of what he taught me," credited Parsons, a former XXL Award-winner.
Speaking with "nothing prepared," Brad Gerlach noted how Collins understood and appreciated his sometimes-eccentric sense of humor. "I think he kind of liked it," smiled Gerlach to the crowd of friends, family, tennis partners, coworkers, world champions, CEOs and surfers. Above the sand, the pier was lined with onlookers. A heaviness weighed on all, a stark and somber contrast to the circus-like atmosphere that's present there during the U.S. Open. It was from Collins' forth floor Surfline office above the pier that he could watch all the madness of the Open, and once again, it felt as if he was looking down, just watching in his quiet, contemplative way.
"Sean lives on in all of us," said Pastor Sumo Sato. "Every time we check the surf, every time we ask if the waves are good, all of that was unlocked by Sean's special God-given gift, and it's something he always took the time to share."
Whether it was surf trips with his two boys, helping Parsons and Gerlach reach XXL-winning heights, decoding the mysteries of places like Cortes Bank and Maverick's, or just making sure that the stoked 13-year-old grommet knew if there would be waves after school, Collins' impact and roll in our daily surfing lives will indeed live on. It's rare that one person can truly affect so many, but because of his contribution to understanding how swells travel through our oceans and eventually arrive in the form of beautiful peeling waves, we're all better off. Proof that good never ends; in every sense of the word Sean Collins was a good man.