Jack O'Neill, surfer and founder of O'Neill, dies at 94
O'Neill is credited with developing the modern neoprene wetsuit that revolutionized the surf industry. As a legendary waterman, he created a brand for products that grew O'Neill into a global action sports name.
O'Neill has released an official obituary that pays tribute to the life of its founder as well as to the legacy he leaves in the surf industry.
Born in Denver, CO, the O'Neills moved to Long Beach, CA when Jack was young. He received a business degree from the University of Portland and served in the US Navy in WWII. Upon leaving the Navy, he and his wife moved to San Francisco where he began prototyping wetsuits that would keep him warmer in the freezing cold Northern California water so he could "surf longer".
O'Neill is credited with coining the phrase "Surf Shop," a term that he was able to register for a US Trademark.
The obituary continues, "At that time Jack famously remarked, 'All my friends said, 'O'Neill: you will sell to five friends on the beach and then you will be out of business.'"
As the California surf scene exploded globally, O'Neill moved down the coast from SF to Santa Cruz to fully immerse himself in his core market. He began making surfboards in addition to improving his landmark wetsuit design the surf industry had already celebrated for years. By 1980, the brand had expanded to Japan, Australia and Europe.
Today O'Neill sells a variety of categories for men, women and kids. While its apparel operations are in Irvine in the hub of Southern California's action sports industry, the company's wetsuit business remains based in the colder waters of Santa Cruz.
Founded in 1952, O'Neill operates as a subsidiary of La Jolla Group who also owns Hang Ten and FMF.
Most recognizable for his eye patch that he wore as a result of a board hitting his eye while surfing, the O'Neill name will no doubt continue to enjoy relevance among future generations of surfers.
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