Jack O'Neill (businessman)

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Jack O'Neill
Jack O'Neill (cropped1).png
Born (1923-03-27)March 27, 1923
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Died June 2, 2017(2017-06-02) (aged 94)
Santa Cruz, California, U.S.
Citizenship American
Alma mater San Francisco State University
Known for Founder of O'Neill brand
Home town Santa Cruz, California
Spouse(s) Marjorie Bennett (d. 1973)
Children 6

Jack O'Neill (March 27, 1923[1] – June 2, 2017) was an American businessman, often credited with the invention of the wetsuit,[2] and the founder of the O'Neill brand.

Early life[edit]

O'Neill 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.[3] O'Neill later moved to San Francisco in 1949 and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts at San Francisco State University.[4]


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, close to his favorite bodysurfing break at the time.[2] This led to the establishment of a company that deals in wetsuits, surf gear, and clothing.[5] Jack O'Neill's name is attached to surfwear and his brand of surfing equipment.[6] Although O'Neill is widely believed to be the inventor of the wetsuit, an investigation concluded that UC Berkeley physicist Hugh Bradner was most likely the original inventor.[7]

In December 1996 he 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.[8]. It has hosted about 100,000 children since it started.[9]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Marjorie, who died in 1973, and they had six children.[10]

O'Neill resided on a beachfront property in Santa Cruz, California, from 1959 until his death on June 2, 2017.[11][12][13][14][15]


in 2002, O'Neill was an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award recipient for the Northern California Region.[16]


  1. ^ Floater. "Surf legend Jack O'Neill hits 89". epicsurf.com.au. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Drew Kampion and Ben Marcus (December 2009). "Jack O'Neill". Surfing Encyclopedia. Surfline, Inc. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Surfing Icon Jack O'Neill, wetsuit pioneer, dies at 94". First Coast News. June 3, 2017. Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Jack O'Neill, who pioneered the wetsuit and popularized cold-water surfing, dies at 94". Los Angeles Times. June 2, 2017. 
  5. ^ Willis, Clint (2003). Big Wave: Stories of Riding the World's Wildest Water. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-56025-501-7. 
  6. ^ Guisado, Raul; Jeff Klaas (2005). Surfing California: A Complete Guide to the Best Breaks on the California Coast. Globe Pequot. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-7627-2966-1. 
  7. ^ Eisenstadt, David (October 11, 2005). "Surfing whodunit". Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^ "Senator Boxer Gives "Conservation Champion" Award to O'Neill Sea Odyssey" (Press release). Barbara Boxer. May 27, 2005. Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ Croffie, Kwegyirba (June 3, 2017). "Jack O'Neill, wetsuit and surfing pioneer, dies at 94". CNN. 
  10. ^ "Jack O'Neill, who pioneered the wetsuit and popularized cold-water surfing, dies at 94". Los Angeles Times. June 2, 2017. 
  11. ^ Klinger, Max (May 27, 2012). "Jack O'Neill, 89, a surfing legend who endures". San Francisco Chronicle. SFGate.com. Retrieved May 29, 2012. 
  12. ^ Gustafson, Eric "How wet-suit pioneer Jack O’Neill shaped surfing culture", August 7, 2015. sfgate.com.
  13. ^ Floater. "Jack O'Neill, Santa Cruz Surfer Wetsuit Pioneer, Dies At 94". KSBW. 
  14. ^ "From the O'Neill Family". O'Neill Sea Odyssey. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  15. ^ Burton, Marta (4 June 2017). "RIP Jack O'Neill: surfer legend & businessman is mourned". RPRNmag newsmagazine. Retrieved 5 June 2017. 
  16. ^ Jack O'Neill Honored SURFER Magazine. 27 June 2002.

Further reading[edit]