Jack O’Neill, the founder of O’Neill wetsuits and a man behind one of the most ubiquitous articles of surfing equipment, passed away Friday, according to Monterey County’s KSBW. The details of his passing are still unknown, but the local news source reported friends of O’Neill had confirmed his death. He was 94 years old.
“It’s a sad day for surfing,” Ken “Skindog” Collins said Friday, in a quote given to KSBW.
You don’t have to be from Santa Cruz to understand why and how Jack O’Neill left behind one of surfing’s greatest legacies. In 1952 he founded the O’Neill brand, determined to make surfing in Northern California waters for more than a few minutes at a time possible. He experimented with different materials and designs that eventually led to the neoprene wetsuits we know today. Simply put, he’s the reason cold water surfing, or just surfing outside of the summer months in most of the world, even exists. Inside the original Surf City USA though, Jack’s imprints are everywhere. O’Neill wetsuits and stickers fill every lineup and no surf check along East Cliff Drive is even possible without driving by or walking by that single green house that sits between Pleasure Point and The Hook – Jack’s house.
It goes without saying, but this is a man that will be missed.