The coolest looking surf industry titan ever!
Jack O’Neill, founder of O’Neill wetsuits, died today in Santa Cruz, California. He was 94 years old. And has any founder of a surf company looked cooler? Looked more like a pirate? I think not. Matt Warshaw writes in his Encyclopedia of Surfing:
O’Neill lost sight in his left eye in 1971 after his leash-tethered surfboard snapped back and hit his face; the surf leash, ironically, had been invented the year before by Pat O’Neill, Jack’s son. (A stylized piratelike image of O’Neill with a full beard and eye patch would later be used as the company logo.)
O’Neill was by that time the consummate behind-the-scenes operator of what was turning into a small international empire, hiring talented managers so that he could continue to surf and sail around Santa Cruz. He never brought attention to himself, and on the rare event when he spoke to the surf press he modestly attributed his success to little more than good timing. Industry insiders, however, regard O’Neill as perhaps the coolest and shrewdest surf businessman alive—the “rubber baron,” as surf journalist Ben Marcus later called him.
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Cause of death unannounced at this time but I sure do wish there was another surf industry founder who sported an eyepatch.
O’Neill will be missed.