Wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill dies at age 94

Jack O'Neill, who pioneered a wetsuit that helped popularize cold-water surfing, died at age 94 of natural causes at his California home. Pictured: Ken Collins rides a wave in the first heat of the Mavericks Invitational surf contest at Half Moon Bay, Calif. on January 24, 2014. South African Grant "Twiggy" Baker won the competition. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UP | License Photo

June 4 (UPI) — Jack O’Neill, who pioneered a wetsuit that helped popularize cold-water surfing and built a massive surfing enterprise, died Friday, June 2, at age 94 of natural causes at his California home.

O’Neill, noted for his eye patch, opened the possibility of surfing in Central and Northern California’s cold waters with neoprene wetsuits after he started experimenting in the 1950s. Surfers at the time had been using sweaters covered in water sealant and other articles of clothing in the frigid waters.

“It’s sad news. You drive by Pleasure Point and you see that house every time, and you get a little reflection of how much surfing means to this community. And what he brought to this community,” surfer Peter Mel said of the world-renowned surf location, where O’Neill lived.

While O’Neill claimed he pioneered the wetsuit, his chief rival Bob Meistrell, of Body Glove International, made a similar claim before he died in 2013. Still, O’Neill is widely credited with expanding the surfing culture to cold waters.

Jack O’Neill, surfer, ocean lover, boating enthusiast, wetsuit pioneer, balloonist, and founder of the iconic worldwide surf company O’Neill, has passed away in Santa Cruz, California, of natural causes at the age of 94.
Surrounded by family, Jack was as soulful and encouraging as always, reiterating his love for his family, appreciation 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. #alwayssummerontheinside #ijustwantedtosurflonger


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