Known around Orange County’s coast as the girl who charges massive waves like a Laird Hamilton, 16-year-old Meah Collins (pronounced Mia) has 100 victories under her belt—and a room full of trophies to prove it. She won titles at the USA North America Pro Junior and Sunset Pro Junior at 14 years old, ripping through 10-foot waves against 130 of the world’s best surfers younger than 20.
But unlike most young, wildly talented people who experience success, Collins’ confidence isn’t a demonstration of arrogance; it’s a sign of her relationship with the sport. “You can only understand the unique, artistic values of surfing and its culture when you’re in it and integrated with people who really know it,” says Collins. “It’s you, your board—which is an extension of your body—and the wave. When you get up and ride with the wave, you’re at one with a force of nature, and there’s nothing else like that.”
Collins’ experience with colossal waves in foreign waters is her main advantage over most of her competition—she was charging heavy surf on the Gold Coast of Australia at 11. Today, she has surfed in six countries on four continents. “She’s all about the power,” says Collins’ father, former pro surfer Richie. “That’s what makes her stand out. Most girls, when they’re young, learn grace, and then develop power in their style. Meah’s the opposite.”
Surfing isn’t the only thing at which Collins excels. The Edison High School junior maintains a 4.2 GPA, plays golf and paints—she has even had her art featured in local shows. “[Local OC surf artist] Jaime Noia helped me get into my first art show,” she says. “I even sold a few pieces!”
With plans to go pro in 2017 and college on the horizon, Collins is looking forward to her senior year. “I’m keeping my options open for college,” she says. Despite all the pressure, Collins exudes an air of tranquility, as if she knows she’ll become a world champion when she grows up.
“I just want to do the best I can and get up there in the rankings,” she says, her pearly smile gleaming. “I know I’m going to compete for a world title. I’ll be there one day.”