O’Neill 6’8 single fin shaped by Chuck Vinson in the mid 1970’s. This board is in great all original condition and features a beautiful wood single fin.
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History of Jack O’Neill
A surfing legend and generally believed to be the inventor of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill was one of the most significant individuals the surf world has seen. Once he gave the surfers something that would protect them from the cold waters, the sport was changed forever. His characteristic eye-patch and interest in oceanography and marine education are only a few things that made him stand out from the crowd. Jack O’Neill was so much more than a surfer- an endless inventor, a sincere person with laid-back character, lifeguard, windsurfer, salesman, sailor, fisherman… the list goes on and on. His name became one of the most recognized in the sport.
O’Neill was born in 1923, in Denver, Colorado. He grew up in Oregon and Southern California, where he began body surfing in the late 1930s. He was a Navy pilot during World War II. O’Neill later moved to San Francisco in 1949 and earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at San Francisco State University. In 1952, he founded the O’Neill brand while opening one of California’s first surf shops in a garage on the Great Highway in San Francisco. Jack O’Neill’s name is attached to surf-wear and his brand of surfing equipment. He not only opened one of the world’s first surf shops- Jack O’Neill also pioneered the neoprene wetsuit that helped popularize year-round cold-water surfing. “I just wanted to surf longer. I just worked on something to make it last longer.”- O’Neill recalls about his revolutionary invention. He began experimenting in the early 1950s with ways to insulate swimwear so he could stay in the cold Northern California waters longer. Surfers at the time were using sweaters sprayed with oily water sealant, as he recalls in one interview. He dabbled with foam rubber but switched to neoprene, which was lightweight and flexible. Although he is widely believed to be the inventor of the wetsuit, a UC Berkeley physicist Hugh Bradner had created a prototype wetsuit and tested it in icy Lake Tahoe in 1950. O’Neill claims he hit on the idea of using neoprene in wetsuits after seeing the material in the woodwork of an airline. Who came up with the wetsuit has been portrayed as the longest-running argument in surfing, but as Jack O’Neill started an internationally known surf-wear business, he is commonly associated with the invention.
In December 1996 Jack O’Neill began a non-profit organization called O’Neill Sea Odyssey which provides students with hands-on lessons in marine biology and that teaches the relationship between the oceans and the environment. It has hosted about 100,000 children since it started. What he says about the program is “The ocean is alive, and we’ve got to take care of it. There is no doubt in my mind that the O’Neill Sea Odyssey is the best thing I’ve ever done.” He’s also engaged in various other causes to support the environment, such as O’Neill Blue. His characteristic eye-patch is an outcome of the accident in which he lost his left eye, involving the surf leash, which had been established by his son Pat. During the 80s, Jack O’Neill affirmed his domination of the worldwide wetsuit market. To this day, the O’Neill brand produces wetsuits, performance water and snow sports apparel, and lifestyle apparel. The company also sponsors young gifted and high-profile surfers, boarders and skiers, as part of their ambassador program.
Jack O’Neill lived on a cliffside estate overlooking the ocean in Santa Cruz, California from 1959 until he passed away on June 2, 2017 at the age of 94. Ever young at heart, the legacy of “the man who turned winters into endless summers across the oceans from north to south” lives on. He raised six children with his wife, Marjorie. Jack O’Neill was a legendary waterman, and his ideas and mindset are still carried on through his brand and family. As he once said, “It’s been a hell of a ride, long may it continue”.