Surfing legend Jack O'Neill dies at age 94

Surfing legend Jack O'Neill dies at age 94

Published Jun. 3, 2017 12:47 p.m. ET

Surfing legend Jack O'Neill died on Friday at the age of 94 in Santa Cruz, California.

O'Neill was known for being one of the pioneers of the wetsuit.


Who actually invented the wetsuit has been described as the longest-running argument in surfing. What is not disputed is that O’Neill eventually developed an internationally known surfwear business after opening a small surf shop on Ocean Beach in San Francisco in 1952. Seven years later, he moved his family to Santa Cruz and opened a second shop.

He promoted his products with innovative ideas and marketing flair — dressing his children in his wetsuits and dunking them in ice baths at trade shows, according to Surfer Magazine. He also introduced the nylon jersey lining that made neoprene more comfortable against bare skin, the magazine said. And his trademark slogan captured his brand’s elan: “It’s always summer on the inside.”

By the 1980s, O'Neill had become the world's largest recreational wetsuit maker and the O'Neill surf brand had gone global.

The one-eyed surfing legend was proud of his O'Neill Sea Odyssey foundation, an organization that taught children marine and environmental education.

For more details on his life and times, click here.