Surfing world icon Jack O'Neill who pioneered wetsuit dies

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He opened his first surf shop in San Francisco in 1952, and popularised the use of the neoprene wetsuit for coldwater surfing. O'Neill's family says he died Friday, June 2, 2017, at home of natural causes.

Jack O'Neill, the eye patch-wearing surfing pioneer who helped invent the wetsuit and created one of the world's best-known surf brands, has died at the age of 94.

In a tribute, O'Neill USA's Instagram page said: "Surrounded by family, Jack was as soulful and encouraging as always, reiterating his love for his family, appreciation for a life well lived, his hopes for his friends and the oceans he loved, all within the familiarity of his oceanfront home of over 50 years, with the famous waves of his beloved Pleasure Point beach lapping at his deck". He experimented with different materials and designs that eventually led to the neoprene wetsuits we know today.

O'Neill said that at the time his friends didn't have much faith in his invention.

He opened a surf shop in San Francisco but in 1959 moved his growing family 75 miles south to Santa Cruz, where he opened his second shop to cater to the city's growing surf scene.

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In 1996, O'Neill, the surfer, founded the O'Neill Sea Odyssey, a youth program that teaches environmental and marine conservation.

The programme has allowed almost 100,000 schoolchildren to travel in his own catamaran to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to learn about marine conservation. "But I kept up on the neoprene wetsuit and I soon got letters from around the world ― people who were interested in staying warm in the water", O'Neill said in a 2012 interview with surf news site Surfline.

"Jack was probably one of the better self promoters that I've ever met".

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