Legends Live Forever - Jack O’Neill paddle out at Newquay

Posted on July 12 2017



O’Neill recently inviting surfers across the world to join in on one of various paddle outs organised to mark the passing of Jack O’Neill - an iconic figure within the surf industry.

Jack O’Neill was a surfer, ocean lover, boating enthusiast and balloonist. But he will be best known by many as  a wetsuit pioneer and the founder of the iconic surf company O’Neill.

Jack passed away last month in Santa Cruz of natural causes at the age of 94.

Legends Live Forever - Jack O’Neill paddle out (Newquay)

Jack was born in Denver, Colorado and moved with his family to Long Beach, California. As a keen surfer during the early 1950s he started experimenting with various materials designed to protect against the frigid ocean water in Northern California saying, “I just wanted to surf longer.”

Later that decade Jack had both invented the first surfing and bodysurfing wetsuits and opened his first surf shop near Ocean Beach. He also coined the term ‘Surf Shop’ for which he later received a Registered US Trademark.

Legends Live Forever - Jack O’Neill paddle out (Newquay)

The surfing craze soon expanded way beyond California, and Jack rode that wave better and longer than almost anyone in the surf industry. Jack viewed what he did as a passion, and was more surprised than anyone that the business grew to the point that it did.

Legends Live Forever - Jack O’Neill paddle out (Newquay)

Paddle outs in Jack’s memory took place in Santa Cruz (California), Manly (Australia), Durban (South Africa), Shiba (Japan), Scheveningen (Holland), Knokke (Belgium), Anglet (France) with our nearest event taking place at Newquay's Great Western Beach.

As the sun came out we were joined by a swarm of jellyfish. We guess they had also come along to pay their respects to Jack too.



Jack has left behind many dear friends and was predeceased by wife Marjorie in 1972, and son Mike in 2012, and is survived by his wife Noriko, daughters Cathi, Bridget and Shawne, sons Pat, Tim (Lisa) and Jack Jr., and grandchildren Uma, Riley, Connor, Bridget, Phoenix and Kodiak.

Memorial contributions in support of Jack’s love of the oceans may be sent to the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program.

Jack O’Neill: “The ocean is alive and we’ve got to take care of it. There’s no doubt in my mind that the O’Neill Sea Odyssey is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

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