O’NEILL the BRAND
The brand O’Neill is celebrating 60 years in operation. Here is a glance of how it all began.
In 1952 Jack O’Neill opened the first surf shop in a garage on the Great Highway in San Francisco, a sand dune away from his favorite body-surfing break. While Dale Velzy, Hobie Alter and others had shops down south they only sold boards. There O’Neill sold his first wetsuits, a few vests he made by sewing together a few pieces of neoprene rubber. A material that was being researched at U C Berkley for deep-sea diving. From the garage he expanded the average surfer playground to include locations Steamer Lane to J-Bay from Antarctica to reef breaks off the coast of Iceland. O’Neill and his company trademarked the term “surf shop,” but never enforced their trademark.
Since then O’Neil made countless improvements to the design and quality of the wetsuit. From the introduction of the zig zag stitch to the names he originated which became generic (i.e. spring-suit, long john, , short john) .
O’Neill’s son Pat was a pioneer in developing the leash, at first affectionately known as the “kook cord.” He used materials such as nylon lines, suction cups and surgical tubing. pat found a way to prevent hos boards from crashing into the cliffs and breaking in half. While testing a leash founder Jack O’Neill lost an eye at Steamer Lane and has to wear an eye patch. Pat O’Neill became CEO of the company in the late 1980’s.
The O’Neill brand now branches out many other products. Wetsuits, surfboards, board-bags, swimsuits, clothing and shoes all print the O’Neill logo. O’Neill teamed up with Royal Phillips Electronics to produce in-ear headphones. Logo International bought the company’s trademark in 2007 along with licensing agreements to sell the brand worldwide. As of 2012 the company employed 130 people and had 60% market share of wetsuits sold worldwide.
Jack O’Neill just celebrated his 89th birthday in April of this year and still wears an eye patch. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few Jack O’Neill sightings at Steamer Lane during the O’Neill Coldwater Classic in Santa Cruz.
See you at the beach!
Monday November 5, 2012 -UPDATE
STEAMER LANE, Santa Cruz/California (Monday, November 5, 2012) – The O’Neill Coldwater Classic, Stop No. 9 of 10 on the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), is back on this morning in clean four foot (1 metre) waves at Steamer Lane, beginning with Heat 9 of Round 3.