Obit: US Surf Enforcer Dies of Heart Attack
The King of Santa Cruz, Vince Collier, dies en route to Puerto Escondido.
Earlier today, the noted surf photographer Chris Klopf announced that his old pal, big-waver, meth-aficianodo and tough guy Vince Collier had died of a heart attack while driving to Puerto Escondido.
Vince Collier – the King is dead – alas, gone too soon, another good, long time friend is gone forever – he just passed away of heart attack enroute to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico….my heart is heavy…. a good friend to me always, we went on many surf trips together. I've known V.C. well since he was just 12 years old – Vince Collier was 220+ lbs of pure power – 1st photo, shown here on a self shaped, short, thick – Twin Fin.. In the water (and on land) you wanted to get the hell out of his way, always.. VC pioneered big Mavericks, 70s Puerto Escondido, charged macking Waimea Bay, big Sunset Beach, big days in Santa Cruz and northern California. Smooth, Fearless and always powerful – he was quick, Irish tempered, volatile and skilled in fighting.. he'd knock someone out with out even blinking – a notorious West Side Santa Cruz enforcer known as 'The Godfather' – he did have a good side and stuck up for his friends, always.. RIP amigo.. this photo was a 2 page spread in Surfer mag in the mid 80s.. and one of Many photos of VC in my book, 'Shooting The Decades, the 1970s and 1980s' – copyright All photos – @chrisklopf – chrisklopf.com/
What do I know of Vince? That he liked to surf, liked to smoke and he liked to fight, not always in that order. For a little perspective on Vince’s death, I turned, as one must to Matt Warshaw, custodian of the sport’s history.
BeachGrit: Vince was a biggish deal, right?
Vince and Richie Schmidt got California back the big-wave game in the late ‘70s. Richie kept going, Vince got sidetracked, but was still dangling a big pair, and was very much a player during the first Mavs push. To us SoCal guys in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Rich and Vince were both awesome. Really cool. On a different level then us, because of the big-wave cred, and because everything about Santa Cruz was way heavier than what we knew down in Manhattan or Newport or San Clemente. Vince and Rich were already putting in months at a time on the North Shore, doing Puerto Escondido when it was still just a village. Rich was the quiet one, Vince was the back-slapping loud one. He was a really good surfer. Tons of power, bit of a slouch-stance, heavy back foot. Surfed like Ian Cairns. Vince and Rich and I were all IPS washouts in the early ‘80s, so we kind of bonded over that. They were great to me, I liked them a lot.
Enforcer sorta cat?
More so in later years, but yeah. Vince was a big redneck Westsider, friendly if you knew him, but drop in on him at the Lane and you’d be sent in for sure. Or punched if you mouthed off . . . except nobody did. I remember in 1992 there was a PSAA contest at the Lane. Machado and Beschen and guys like that were all in town, this was right before they jumped up to the world tour. I’d just moved to the Bay Area, and covered the contest for SURFER. Finals day, really fun six-foot surf, dropping tide throughout the morning. There was going to be a 30 minute break just before lunch, the whole damn place was gonna be empty from the Point to Indicator. So I suited up, lurked down at the bottom of the cliff, and when the horn blew I sprinted into the lineup. Right when I sit up I hear “HEY YOU! GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WATER!” I turn around and see Vince charging me, snarling, face red, he’s the hired muscle, and I froze. I’d never seen him like that. It was terrifying. I babbled something and he pulls up, stares, and goes “Oh! Warshaw!” For a second he wasn’t sure how to handle it. Then he nods, asks me how I’m doing, turns for the next wave, and tells me to clear out before the next heat starts. I loved him at that moment.
Vince’s rep now is that he took Flea and I think Ken Collins to Mavs for the first time, probably in 1992, and they surfed it on acid. His was the protective and kind of psychotic big brother figure to those guys He was the guy who gave Flea the nickname “Flea.” But what Vince is probably best know for is he went deep into the drug scene.
How big was Vince’s rep?
Vince’s rep now is that he took Flea and I think Ken Collins to Mavs for the first time, probably in 1992, and they surfed it on acid. His was the protective and kind of psychotic big brother figure to those guys. He was the guy who gave Flea the nickname “Flea.” But what Vince is probably best know for is he went deep into the drug scene. Deep, dark, and ugly into the drug scene, backwoods scary shit. I didn’t watch the Josh Pomer documentary. It’s out there if you want to see it. I don’t.
Where does he stand in the pantheon of US surfing?
As a cautionary tale, you’d put him in the top four. Vince, Ricky Rasmussen, David Eggers, Andy Irons in any order you choose.