"I just wanted to surf longer"
Who would have ever thought that a simple quote would change the world of water sports forever? More than 60 years after it has been pronounced, we are still thanking his author.
Jack O’Neill, who has been at the origin of the oldest surf brand in history, is still a source of inspiration for today’s water and winter sports lovers. Discover, here, how the invention of the first neoprene wetsuit has motivated the following creations of the first historical surf shop, revolutionizing the way millions of riders can share their common pasion.
It is in
1923 that the O’Neill family’s second child, and first boy, Jack, came into the world in Los Angeles, CA. No “big waves” during this casual life of an american kid during the Great Depression, until 1934. This first day of bodysurfing in Santa Monica has then become Jack’s second birth date. The day he discovered his true passion, leading him to what he became today. Indeed, few years later, after having tried several jobs and launched a couple of businesses, Jack started creating history by opening the very first surf shop ever in 1952, in San Francisco. The store would be relocated 7 years later in iconic Santa Cruz. 1953 has then been the year Jack revolutionized water sports forever by inventing the very first wetsuit. This was the starting point of O’Neill’s road to become the legendary brand it is today.
Being first at inventing things has then been a core business for O’Neill.
In 1970, Jack invented the supersuit, a new piece of neoprene in which you could blow air to be more comfortable and recognizable in case you are lost in the ocean, waiting for rescue. The following year, in 1971, Jack’s son, Pat, invented the first surf leash. Since then, nobody imagines a surf deck without it to prevent you from losing your board. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, some assumptions say that this same invention cost Jack his eye. Indeed, during one of many surf sessions one year later, after Jack fell off his board, the deck came back right into his left eye. Was it because of another wave coming back or because of the leash tied to his body? Jack himself wouldn't know what could be considered as the real reason of this accident. Nevertheless, that very moment is the one at the origin of this classical image of the One-Eyed-Jack, strongest label of the brand ever since.
That, however, didn't stop the company to innovate and, in
1976, O’Neill took over the mountains by launching the very first noeprene snow pants. Then, the 1980’s witnessed the appearances of the first rashguards and split-toe boots. You guessed it, invented by Jack’s crew, once again.