Jack O’Neill, surfer, ocean lover and boating enthusiast has passed away in Santa Cruz, California, of natural causes at the age of 94. He was credited with the invention of the wetsuit and the founder of the O’Neill brand.
Jack grew up in Oregon and southern California, where he began body surfing in the late 1930s. O’Neill later moved to San Francisco in 1949 and earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at San Francisco State University.
In 1952, he founded the O’Neill brand while opening one of California’s first surf shops in a garage on the Great Highway in San Francisco, close to his favorite bodysurfing break at the time. This led to the establishment of a company that deals in wetsuits, surf gear, and clothing. Jack O’Neill’s name is attached to surfwear and his brand of surfing equipment. Although O’Neill is widely believed to be the inventor of the wetsuit, an investigation concluded that UC Berkeley physicist Hugh Bradner was most likely the original inventor.
In December 1996 he began a non-profit organization called O’Neill Sea Odyssey which provides students with hands-on lessons in marine biology and that teaches the relationship between the oceans and the environment
Jack has left behind many dear friends and was predeceased by wife Marjorie in 1972, and son Mike in 2012, and is survived by his wife Noriko, daughters Cathi, Bridget and Shawne, sons Pat, Tim (Lisa) and Jack Jr., and grandchildren Uma, Riley, Connor, Bridget, Phoenix and Kodiak.
Surrounded by family, Jack was as soulful and encouraging as always, reiterating his love for his family, apprecation for a life well lived, his hopes for his friends and the oceans he loved, all within the familiarity of his oceanfront home of over 50 years, with the famous waves of his beloved Pleasure Point beach lapping at his deck.