Seventeen-year-old Meah Collins is just getting her career started, and doing so in fantastic fashion. Earlier this year, the Qualifying Series surfer earned her first wildcard spot in a Championship Tour event, the Vans US Open (when she was just 16). Now, she's won the North America Women's Qualifying Series Regional title -- all as her senior year of high school gets started.
Daughter of former CT star Richie Collins, the Huntington Beach native-turned-world-traveler is back from Japan and now has her eyes set on Australia once more. The WSL caught up with Collins before she hopped on the next flight out.
WSL: Have you been able to sit back and let this incredible year sink in?
Meah Collins: It's still so surreal, I didn't start the year thinking that winning the title would even be in my reach. I've been going through so many different transitions this past year with my boards, going into my senior year of high school, on top of all the girls who rip from this region -- I can't believe I took the title. It's been an amazing career for me so far. I feel like I'm on a pretty good track with my ultimate goal of making it on the CT.
What would it mean to make that goal a reality?
I think it would definitely be amazing to qualify next year, but I don't want to push anything too hard, where it makes me lose sight of my love for the sport.
Was seeing your father's success as a pro surfer an influence on your goals of making it to the top level?
My dad is my favorite surfer! He's such a legend in the sport. His iconic trophy collection such as the OP Pro and the Bell definitely inspires me everyday to get a collection started of my own. I would be honored to achieve the accolades and success he has had in his career.
You have nearly all of Huntington Beach in your corner. How does it feel to have that kind of support from everyone?
It means the world to me to have my family and friends support me for each event. I feel an enormous amount of love at the US Open each year, which makes it my favorite event regardless of the conditions. My mom is definitely my biggest supporter and fan. She understands me better than anyone else and knows exactly what I need at the right time at each event.
What's been a big factor for your success this year?
I've just been taking it event by event with the same goal, focus, and drive to win each one, but at the same time I love experiencing and learning new cultures at the different competitions. It's the most rewarding part of being a surfer. To be able to travel as much as we do is a blessing that no other sport has.
I love experiencing and learning new cultures at the different competitions. It's the most rewarding part...it just makes me realize how blessed I am to have an opportunity to experience the world.
What impact has that had on you at such a young age as you still compete on the Junior Tour as well?
The cultural impact has been quite amazing. A lot of my friends from school haven't really been out of the country, and it just makes me realize how blessed I am to have an opportunity to experience the world. The world is so much bigger than just where you live, and it's so rich with variety in food and the way people interact. It has opened my eyes to appreciate the diversity of people and their respective cultures.
How do you find balance between school and competing around the world? It's definitely not easy. I am taking three Advanced Placement (AP) classes this year, so I have a lot more school work than normal. But, I love school so I find the time to fit it in my surf schedule. When I travel, my school allows me to do independent studies where I need to complete all the work I miss during school plus homework. So although my main focus is the contest at hand, I still fit in all the school work between free surfs and heat times. Most of the time I'm finishing it up on the flight back.
What was a highlight for you this year when looking back?
Definitely El Salvador [stood out to me] because that wave is incredible. To have consistent, perfect 4-6-foot waves in a competition is pretty awesome. Also, the US Open was pretty special for me this year to win the wildcard in the CT, and to have my hometown support me.
Collins will compete next in the final women's QS event of 2016, the Sydney International Women's Pro, from November 3-6.