Wave Tools: For Richie Collins by Richie Collins

The innovation period shapers I respect the most have always been surfer / shapers. Newport Beach prodigy Richie Collins was one of the youngest pro-surfer, pro-shapers in the history of the sport. My friend in LA recently showed me his Richie Collins shaped for Richie Collins competition board complete with sponsors decals and original 80's deck grip. Richie's unique shaping style can be seen in the double flyer diamond tail and super fine foil.

The story of Richie's professional surfing career is somewhat of a sad tale and has certainly given me pause to think about ever encouraging my own son into a competitive sporting career.

Freaksurf Magazine : Can you introduce Richie Collins, legendary surfer ?
Richie Collins : I am Richie Collins from Newport Beach, California. I started surfing very young, because my father was a surfer shaper.
FSM: Why did you choose surfing rather than other sport?

RC : When I was a child, I grew up hanging out at my dad's surfboard factory and I was going surfing with his friends. I would watch him and all the workers shape and build surfboards. When I would go surfing I would always try and keep up with the big boys, like JEFF PARKER, DANNY KWOCK and PRESTON MURRAY to try to become one of them since they were always in the mags. I shaped my first board when I was 11 and got into it when I was 14. I started to design all my own shapes and fins. I started shaping because my dad is LANCE COLLINS of WAVE TOOLS. I watched him since I was a little boy and wanted to be  just like him.

FSM: Tell me about your career, from the beginning down to the new Dream Tour.
RC: A few years later when I was 14, I turned pro and started shaping and building all my own surfboards. I was learning a lot working with my dad. I was the youngest professional surfer / shaper in the world. As a young pro I was being taught by some of the best surfer in California, like GREG MUNGALL, DAVE PARMATER and JIM HOGAN.
Surfing on the PSAA tour was very hard. I was always getting beat by the bigger guys. I traveled back and forth to Hawaii so I could become an all around surfer.

I was living with Ken Bradshaw for about 4 winters and it was the best experience you could possibly ask for. As my career took off on the PSAA I was making a great name for myself in the United States and in Hawaii. I was shaping all of my own boards and learning new ideas for big wave shapes from Ken. When I was 17 I was rated 2nd on the PSAA tour and I had just got sponsored by Billabong. In 1987 I turned 18, so I decided to take a stab on the ASP tour and go to Japan for my first tour event. I finished 17th. I decided to quit the PSAA and go on the ASP Tour. I was always looking for a challenge and I sure got one. Travelling around the world at 18 was a challenge. I went to South Africa and placed 3rd in Cape Town at the Spur Steak Ranch comp. I came back home and did the Op pro and the Stubbies. I went to other places like Australia, Brazil, England, France, Spain, and Portugal.
It sounds like so much fun and it was, but it really makes you grow up quick. In 1988 the first big comp of the year was the O'neill Coors cold water classic up in Santa Cruz California and it was one cold comp. Big and small, stormy and perfect the Collins kid takes his first victory.
"What a rush"! By the end of the 1987-88 tour I finished 30th in the world. The following year in 1988 the tour was very short. It started in Japan in May and ended in Hawaii in December. It was very difficult, but traveling to all those countries, with my resent results, made me even more famous. I had fans everywhere and loved to give out autographs. I had a few good results to push me into the top 16 to finish 14th.

1989 was my big year. I struggled a lot in the beginning and by mid way through I found some piece of mind with God. After 2 years on the tour, I was losing my mind. The short 2nd year took a toll on all of us. I had about a month off before the Op pro, so I took some time with my friends. I surfed the Op pro and won defeating TOM CURREN in the final. What a huge victory for me! I was on cloud 9. Talk about the rush and the crowd on the beach.
It was awesome, thank you God. Well there was no time to celebrate, it was off to England and France. When I got to France I was a hero. I had fans and media following me everywhere. The 1st comp was Lacanau, MARTIN POTTER and I in the final, I got 2nd. Second comp hossegor, I lost to TOM CURREN in the semi for a 3rd. Third comp, me and MARTIN POTTER again in the final and lost once again for a 2nd. Wow, talk about a lot of surfing. For the rest of the year I did not do so well. I had a few OK results, to help me finish in the top 10 at # 8.
In 1990, things got ugly. I was not giving myself up to God and I started to have some personal problems and could not focus on having a good time. The only good result I got was a 2nd against TOM CURREN in Japan with a couple of other OK results. Once again I finished 8th in the world. 
In 1991 the surfing world was changing. I had so much going on in my life and was so stressed out, that my focus was no longer there. I was still struggling, needing a break and wanting to take some time off. There was no time off or I would lose everything. What the hell was the difference. I lost everything any way. In 1991 I had lost all of my sponsors. I was 8th in the world with no sponsors and doing the tour. I felt like crap. Having a very hard year with barely any good results but I managed to finish 10th. I had a pretty good finish for the first time in Hawaii with a 2nd at Sunset, 5th at Pipe and a 9th at Haleiwa to finish 3rd over all in the Triple Crown. 
In 1992 the new year was here and time to start fresh. I decided to just take it easy and try to be mellow. The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Australia was the first comp of the year. I stayed by myself away from the media the best I could, but the ASP decided to introduce a new kind of scoring system and make 2 tours instead of 1.
Since there were so many surfers and not enough days for a comp they decided to change to a World Qualifying Series and a World Championship Tour. Everyone was confused and could not figure out what the ASP was talking about, so some of us just decided to forget about it and surf. When I was asked about it I pretty much just said, I am here to surf and what ever happens, happens. To make things even more confusing the ASP came up with a new scoring system to.
We were scored by percentages, based on if you won your heat or got 2nd. Once again we were in a stump. What the hell are these people trying to do.

Finally after trying to figure that out, I just said forget it and surfed.
The comp had started and I won my first heat. Once again I was asked by the media what was going on and I just said 'I do not know or understand'. I tried to stay away so I could just relax and not be seen. By staying away from all the hype, it kept me focused on what I was here to do. I actually enjoyed my time and surfed to a very hard final against the World Champ Martin Potter. Just before the final the head judge was trying to decide if he should make it a 30 min or 40 min final and I said to him, just make it 40 mins since there are so many people watching. The final starts and Potts and I were going wave for wave. I kept getting the better waves and with 10 mins to go it would be my last wave. Something went wrong and my back just seized up on me and I could no longer surf.
Potts needed basically 2 x 9.0 rides to beat me. The ocean went flat enough to where there were no 9's coming in so Potts decided to paddle in knowing I was injured with still some time remaining, but said that he did not want to win like that. With my back tied up and in so much pain they could not even move me. Potts was the only one up on the stage when they gave out the awards.
I was carried off the beach in a stretcher and put into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. I sat in the hospital for about 4 hours and not one person from the ASP or the Rip Curl comp called to see how I was doing. I had one phone call from a life guard named Pete who had helped carry me up the hill to see if I was OK and if I needed any help.
I told him that I was fine and I am just waiting for someone to call from the ASP to help me. Hours went by and still no phone call, but Pete called again offering to come and pick me up and asked if I needed any clothes. I was still in my wetsuit, because we could not take it off because of my back. I finally took it off 6 hours after the final.
Pete and his wife and a friend came to see if I was doing OK and asked if I needed a ride and I said 'yes'. If it wasn't for them I would probably still be waiting in the hospital for that phone call. They drove me back to where I was staying and then offered to put me up in their house until I could walk again. I packed up a couple of things and went to stay at their house.
The next day I still had not heard from anyone. I had one week to try and recover until the next comp up in Sydney. I checked out of my caravan park and stayed with Pete. My back was still really bad, but had to fly up to Sydney to compete regardless.
I can not remember how I got my Bell's bell, but I do have it. What a great feeling to it was to win the most important comp in the world. When I got to Sydney I still was pretty bad. Since there were no injury wild cards back then, I had to try and compete. I did not do very well at all. At least I can say I was the World Champ for 2 weeks. I had a hard time the rest of the year.
I wish I could have taken some time off, but if I did, I would have lost my spot. By the end of the year I was burnt out and very tired. My whole life was in a scramble. I had a new sponsor, Body Glove, and kept trying to surf and keep up my results, but it just wasn't working out. I dropped out of the top 16 and finished 18th.
In 1993 I was still so fried, but I kept on trying to over come my pain. I struggled all year with no results and at the last part of the year my great Grandma had died and my Grandpa was very sick with cancer. I could not think straight at all and I decided not to finish the year in Hawaii to spend time with my Grandpa. Then 2 days before Christmas my Grandpa died.  
I was devastated. Two of the most important people in my life were gone. The two people who would look at you with all their heart and love no matter what. So that was it, I was done.
When 1994 started it was very hard. I was no longer on the WCT, but I had picked up some sponsorship from Town & Country. I decided to stay home and do the local BUD tour events. I actually was doing very well. I did not have to travel, only up and down the coast.
It was very refreshing. So I decided to hop on a plane and go down to S. Africa and surf the Gunston 500. The waves were pretty good and I won all my heats to a 1st place finish that would put me on the WCT for the following 1995 year.
The next year was very funny. I was not angry but very confused. I tried so hard to win that I could not even surf at all. I had lost every 1st heat and all my friends were blown away. It was like I did not belong there. What was I to do? So I surfed and finished I think 40th and then called it quits.
In 1996 my sponsors had dropped me once again so I stayed home and just surfed and tried to have fun. That is when I met my wife today. Now I have been married for almost 12 yrs and have 3 beautiful little girls...
FSM: What would you need to win a World title?
Richie Collins : To win a world title you need to bring something new and exciting with a lot of experience.
FSM: You ride your own shapes during all your life and you were the only one to do that at the time, what did the other riders thought about it ?
RC: Some thought that i had an advantage and other did not really care.
FSM: It must be fantastic to defeat guys such as TOM CURREN on your own shape? You must feel like the ultimate surfer?
RC: Being able to beat the best surfers in the world riding your own surfboards is awesome.
FSM: Why were you the only one to have done this ever, ANDY KELLY, TAJ, work with their shapers but nobody rides his own shapes?
RC: It is very difficult to be a surfer / shaper. Simon Anderson, and Mark Richards were two of my most important inspirations. If you have a shaper who understands the way you want to surf and you both can put together a formula in a shaped surfboard and to be able to continue to produce what you are looking for, than I think that is a big advantage.
FSM: Everybody on the dream tour seems to reduce his board size for this year what do you think about it?
RC: Nothing has changed since i was on the tour. We always rode smaller surfboards to surf faster and quicker. The difference now is the boards have evolved into even smaller, thinner and narrower surfboards to allow the surfers to do the maneuvers even easier.
FSM: Everybody remember your victories on OP PRO and BELLS BEACH against CURREN AND POTTER what was you relationship with them?
RC: We were not really friends back then. It all about kicking each others asses in the water and leaving to prepare for the next heat.
FSM: We can see former legends trying a come back like SUNNY. What do you think about that and are you willing to make a come back?
RC: For guys like me and Sunny to be able to surf at our age and to compete with the younger generation is great for the sport. It brings back great memories and excitement for the media and the generation of fans who remember why they surf. Unfortunately the sponsors do not see it that way. I bet if you brought all of us original surfers back for a reunion event, it would get more coverage and be more exciting than any other event.
FSM: SUNNY, OCCY, MARTIN, TOM, GARY or ROSS CLARKE have sponsors  why don't you have one, too much of a rebel?
RC: The surf companies would rather hire nobodies and pay 200 kids with no names to try and find the next Kelly Slater than hire someone like me who could surf and help them find the next world champ. That is why I do not have a sponsor. Plus because I am to hard core and I do not kiss ass.
FSM: What do you think about the new school like DANE REYNOLDS, JOSH KERR etc who are boosting airs every where?
RC: I really do not care for all that jumping around. I have been doing air for 25 years and then Kelly came along with his thinner surfboards and started taking it to the next level. 20 yr later he is still doing it better than ever and then some.
FSM: DANE REYNOLDS has no passion he doesn't really care about winning the title just like CHRIS WARD. What do you think about those guys? Is that the real, pure surf attitude, don't care just enjoy the ride?
RC: Dane is young and doesn't care. He has the talent to win, but it will be on his time. Chris has been around for a while now and i just do not think he surfs to be a world champ. I think he just enjoys knowing he is one of the best. i wanted to be the best and the champ so bad it hurt. if i could have been more like these 2 guys i might have lasted longer or would have never become who i am today. The richie collins everyone remembers.
FSM: You boosted air 360s in you time, ARCHY too, why those maneuvers weren't recognized?
RC: When me and a couple of other surfers were doing air 360s no body cared. The media loved it and so did the fans. but the judges did not care and would not give scores so we stopped doing them.

RC: The names speak for themselves.
FSM: Archy made a video about his career, ROSS CLARK JONES too, are we gonna see RICHIE's career video?
RC: Maybe.
FSM: What is your surfing's future?
RC: Only God knows !
FSM: Now the best for the end, you told me your daughter will be a terrific surfer tell us about her!
RC: My daughter is 9 yrs old. Her name is Meah Collins. We will see how she goes in the next year. "ladies watch out".
FSM: Thanks Richie, we miss you,  God bless you bro...


  1. Great read. John Lydon said this about the music industry, " That music industry never helped no one no how. " It's the same with the surf industry. Surfing and the so called surf industry really have nothing to do with each other. One is pure. The other a parasite.

  2. Johann Mouchel / European editor for Aladdin Surf Mag