In 1959, Jack opened his first surfing shop in Santa Cruz at the entrance to Cowell Beach. It was the first business ever to call itself a “Surf Shop” and it became a place where a tight-knit surfing community formed.
A nexus for the creation of modern surf culture, the “Surf Shop” also became a profitable business. O’Neill is now one of the best selling wet suit brands in the world as well as a top sportswear brand.
O’Neill Sea Odyssey
In 1996, Jack O’Neill founded the non-profit O’Neill Sea Odyssey. This organization has taught more than 65,000 4-6th graders about ocean ecology while sailing on Monterey Bay. When interviewed by the Santa Cruz Sentinel Jack said “I am thrilled with the fact that life has given me the opportunity to start the O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a very effective program that brings awareness of the invaluable oceans to the next generation. Follow your bliss!”
In recognition for his contributions to launching a California-born industry, the California State Historical Resources Commission made the 1959 “Surf Shop” location a Point of Historical Interest on May 31, 2012. A commemorative plaque and a temporary mural were put up near the old Surf Shop location and a dedication even was held in the parking lot for Cowell Beach in March 2013.
Speaking about the dedication, Jack said, “What started out as a way to catch as many waves as possible has turned into a life I could not have even dreamed up. I am grateful to all of you who have supported us along the way from our roots through 60 years.”
A permanent mural was placed next to the commemorative plaque in early January 2014. It is 55 feet long, 6 feet high and made of porcelain on steel. Made by KVO Industries of Santa Rosa, the mural was paid for by the O’Neill Company and the Dream Inn. The Dream Inn has also honored Jack’s legacy by opening “The Jack O’Neill Lounge” next to its Aquarius restaurant. Inside the lounge, the view, O’Neill memorabilia, and the french fries, are all quite good.
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- Hidden Histories: The First O’Neill Surf Shop at Ocean Beach Alex Bevk. SFCurbed.com. June 25, 2012.
- O’Neill Sea Odyssey Website. February 28, 2012.
- Site of original O’Neill Surf Shop designated Point of Historical Interest. Santa Cruz Sentinel. June 5, 2012.
- Julia Gaudinski, Chief Ranger at Mobile Ranger, attended the March 25, 2013 dedication and learned much of this information from the ceremony, the plaque that was dedicated and the temporary mural captions.
- Permanent mural honoring Jack O’Neill goes up at Santa Cruz's Cowell Beach. J.M. Brown. Santa Cruz Sentinel. January 5, 2014..