Punker Pat Towersey wants to know: Where is Richie Collins now?
Richie Collins is a rebel. He’s always been a rebel. How many guys dropped everything and turned pro at fourteen? How many pro surfers have taken the time to learn how to build their own equipment, from cutting the foam to airbrushing, glassing, and sanding? How many people stand up for what they believe in and are not scared to let the world know? Richie Collins is one of those guys.
By the time Richie Collins was a pro surfer at the tender age of fourteen, he already had years of shaping experience under his belt. Could you imagine one of today’s top pros like Joel Parkinson fine-tuning his own equipment, shaping boards in his spare time, and making fin templates while on tour? That’s what Richie was doing in the late 80s. He was constantly out in the lineup testing his own equipment all over the world while competing against the best surfers on the WCT.
These days, most professional surfers probably couldn’t tell you the dimensions of their favorite shortboard, much less the amount of rocker or what kind of bottom concave they’ve got under their feet. For Richie, things were a little different: “I’d been designing my own boards since I was a little kid. When I started out as a professional, I was designing everything from the fins, the rocker, the rails and concave-everything. I think I had an advantage by doing it myself, and I think it helped me out a lot, both as a shaper and a surfer.”
In case you’re a little too young to remember, Richie wasn’t the laid-back, easygoing shaper you’re all thinking of. He did a lot of things differently than the rest of the pack that, along with his shaping, definitely made him stand out a little more than the average pro at that time. Richie was loud and outspoken, which he backed by his appearance in the water and out. The surf media loved his radical approach to competitive surfing, and Richie was one of the leaders pushing the sport through the late 80s and early 90s. Innovation was the key to a lot of Richie’s success, both in the shaping bay and in the contests. At a time when pro surfing was all about the “Huntington hop” and milking it to the last drop, Richie was bringing airs, long floaters, and more-than-vertical backside snaps into his heats. Airs and floaters may not seem a big deal to most guys on the WCT heats today, but we’re talking about fifteen years ago.
Richie really fed off competition-even being quoted as saying that competition was the only reason he surfed. He spent three years in the top ten on the world tour and would go on to defeat Tom Curren in the final at the 1989 Op Pro in Huntington Beach, as well as Martin Potter in the 1992 Bells Beach Classic, even after having to get pulled out of the water with ten minutes left in the heat because of a pinched nerve in his back. Though he’d had more than a few stellar moments and plenty of exposure during his time as a top pro, it seemed that his time as a professional surfer was running thin.
Throughout his career, he was troubled by a reoccurring back injury that stemmed from an old windsurfing accident when he was just twelve years of age. After falling short on the grueling ASP tour of the early to mid 90s, Richie stopped competing full time for a more traditional life.
These days Richie is at home in Costa Mesa, California, happily married with two kids who make up most of his daily routine. “I have a new baby now, so I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to feed her. If I wake up early enough, I’ll head down to the beach and go for a surf if the waves are up. If not, I’ll just come home and take care of the kids.”
Between baby bottles and barrels at 54th Street, Richie is still making a few boards here and there from start to finish, just like he was back before he was taking out world champions on the ASP tour. If you happen to see a yellow truck down at the beach in Newport and the surf is up, I’m sure yoou won’t be able to miss Richie, he still gets all the good waves.-Willie Marshall
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