Meah Collins is doing a good job living up to her family legacy. The 16-year-old Newport native just won the Vans US Open of Surfing trials, and is now competing alongside the world's best (in addition to competing in the Juniors event) in Huntington this week. Meah is the daughter of former CT competitor Richie Collins, who knows what it's like to win in Huntington Beach; he beat Tom Curren in the Final of the 1989 Op Pro. Meah's grandfather is shaper Lance Collins, another Newport legend.
Collins at the most recent QS event, the Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro at nearby Oceanside. - WSL / Kurt Steinmetz
WSL: Is this your first shot at the CT?
Meah: Yes. I'm ecstatic, overwhelmed. I'm almost in disbelief.
WSL: Does it change your mindset at all?
Meah: I take each contest just as seriously as the other. It's all the same. I'm just going out there to do the best I can do and now that I made the CT level it's my biggest break ever. I worked so hard for this and it's really paid off. It's such a relief.
WSL: You've been killing it in California. Is that a home-field advantage type of thing?
Meah: It really started in Cabo and El Salvador. I did really well and built up some momentum and got myself in a little groove. Before, I wasn't doing very well and I was having a hard time competing but after those two events I just started getting on a roll and finding that good headspace.
WSL: What's the most important thing you learned from those events?
Meah: The main thing for me is keeping up my self-confidence, knowing I have the ability and I just need to work on heat strategies, always watching the ocean and staying in rhythm in the ocean. Not every contest is the same, obviously, but I try to keep the same mindset for every one. I don't like to trip myself out so I just stay calm and keep myself in a good zone.
Meah built up momentum after a solid finish in El Salvador. - WSL / Kurt Steinmetz
WSL: Is self-confidence something you train for in the water or out?
Meah: Both. I get a lot of self-confidence from being with my family and getting that encouragement and support. But in the water, too. When you see yourself doing well... The event in Cabo was the first contest I did well in and then in El Salvador I finished ninth, which is the best I've done on the QS [because of the high rating of the contest]. After you start doing well, your confidence levels go up and you start thinking you can do this. You can surf well and you can compete with the top girls, and I've just been keeping that mindset and it's really helped me. I've always known I can do well and it's just been a matter of maintaining that headspace and I've tried to keep that going and it's working out.
WSL: What does your support system look like?
Meah: I've got my mom, she is one of my biggest fans. She was crying when I came up the beach. It was the best scene ever (laughs). My dad is my coach and shapes my boards. And my two little sisters who I love...
WSL: Your dad is also your shaper? What's that like? Did you grow up in the shaping bay?
Meah: It's great. You can just go directly to your shaper without anything in between so the communication is really fast. And he's got it dialed. I don't get in the shaping room with him a lot but I have watched him a couple times. I just let him do his thing. I usually just follow along and if I don't like something I tell him.
Collins' performance at the junior event in Los Cabos should put her competitors in Huntington Beach, juniors and CTers alike, on high alert. Photo: WSL / Marenelmar
WSL: How do the girls on the CT inspire you?
Meah: Every girl is different and they all have amazing attributes. I'm always watching and I pick certain things out that they're doing and I study those. Just getting the chance to surf against these girls is amazing. Even during a freesurf, just being in the water with them, I'm just sitting in awe. It makes me so happy to be able to compete against them.