Surfer, adventurer, ocean lover, and founder of the brand that bears his name, Jack O’Neill has died aged 94. Surrounded by his family, at his oceanfront home in Pleasure Point beach in California, O’Neill died of natural causes.
Of course, Jack O’Neill is known as the founder of one of the largest and most recognisable surf wear brands in the world. Indeed, his name is synonymous with riding waves. But it’s as the innovator of the modern wetsuit that Jack O’Neill should be remembered by all of us who love surfing.
After all, how often can an entire group of people, a class of people, point to one single figure and claim that that person undoubtedly improved their life. By inventing the wetsuit, O’Neill ensured that, not only could more of us around the world surf, but we could all do for longer, and throughout the year.
O’Neill was born in Denver, Colorado, before moving with his family to Long Beach, California, where he acquired a love for the beach at an early age. He went on to attend the University of Portland in Oregon, where he received a degree in business.
Following service in the US Navy during World War II, O’Neill married first wife Marjorie Bennett and in the early 1950s, they moved to Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California. When there, O’Neill began experimenting on his kitchen table with various materials designed to protect against the frigid ocean water in Northern California. He said, “I just wanted to surf longer.”