Jack O’Neill’s story is one to be admired. He came to Santa Cruz in 1959 after setting up his first shop in San Francisco’s Ocean Beach where he started experimenting with different material for wetsuits.
When he started his business surf culture was non existent and few of his friends thought he would make any money on his wetsuits. However, he kept experimenting and kept persevering and soon enough… well you know what happened, O’Neill became one of the biggest wetsuit designers and manufacturers in the world! His invention made it possible for surfers to brave cold waters year round.
But O’Neill was much more than a surf industry innovator and businessman, he also created the O’Neill Sea Odyssey, which brings marine and environmental education to children and has taken almost 100,00 children out since it began. He has always been in awe of the ocean, and is a huge advocate for ocean conservancy.
Since his recent passing flowers, handwritten notes and gifts have been left at O’Neill’s home of 50 years that looks out to the ocean on East Cliff in Santa Cruz. In the surf community and in Santa Cruz he is remembered as an innovator, an adventurer, a lover of the ocean, a legacy