A Swell Time
Newport Beach is known for more than its ample sunshine, pristine coastlines, and epic views: It’s also home to some of the best surf spots in Southern California. Its unique and varied areas offer the perfect surf, whatever your skill level (beach breaks at the south end make for mellower waves, while larger swells are created as you move north). Here, professional surfer and Newport Beach native Richie Collins gives us the breakdown on what makes his local beaches so special, reflects on his career highlights, and lends advice to visitors who wish to experience our waves.
A Newport Beach native and son of a surfer and board shaper, you’ve grown up surfing. What’s your earliest surfing memory?
I started surfing at age 6 in Newport Beach, where my dad owned a surf shop at the Pier. I just started surfing on my own out front. My first surfing memory was when I first got to my feet and rode a wave.
Describe the feeling that surfing brings you.
I was first drawn to surfing for the competition aspect of it. Contest drove me to want to be the World Champion.
What are your top career moments?
Winning the OP Pro in Huntington Beach in 1989 was definitely the highlight of my career because it was my local break. Then I would have to say winning the O’Neill Cold Water Classic in Santa Cruz, and Bells in Victoria, Australia
What surf spots in Newport Beach do you recommend to the novice/intermediate/experience surfer?
Newport Beach offers a graduation through its streets: People who first learn how to surf will start out at Blackies, at the southern most point, next to the Pier. (This is also a great spot for experienced longboarders.) As they progressively get better, they will surf 36th Street, and then ultimately make their way up to 54th Street, where you’ll find most of the experienced surfers. I have 3 daughters who are ages 14, 9, and 8. They all learned to surf at Blackies. Now we surf all over the world together.
What type of board do you recommend for beginners?
All beginners — of any age or gender — should start out on at least an 8-foot or 9-foot board. You’ll balance and float better.
What are the essential items you’ll need for a day of surfing in Newport Beach? A surfboard, a leash, surf wax, a wetsuit, and a towel.
To be a decent surfer means staying in good shape — what’s your routine?
I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, especially smoothies. I also stretch every morning, as you use a lot of different muscles when you surf.
How is surfing different for men and women, and what changes have you seen as your own daughters have taken to the sport?
Women have come a long way since I was competing. Watching my 14-year-old daughter compete, I am seeing a major progression in women’s surfing. There is a lot of [female] talent out there, comparable to a lot of guys now. My oldest, Meah, has completed in several pro events and will compete in the local amateur series. She recently won an ASP Pro Junior event at Sunset Beach, Hawaii in 12-foot surf! And my 9-year-old will start to compete in amateur series this year.