A Brief History

The O’Neill brand started life in 1952 when our founder, Jack O’Neill began designing and producing the world’s first neoprene wetsuits out of the world’s first surf shop - a humble garage off the Great Highway, San Francisco.

Word of Jack’s craftsmanship in both shaping boards and designing wetsuits soon spread with surfers from all over the world keen to get their hands on his designs in order to be able to surf better, for longer. Before long Jack’s satisfied customers included windsurfers, divers, water skiers and snow skiers. As the business continued to grow and evolve, Jack got all his six kids involved in the manufacturing and marketing process.

Throughout every step of the O’Neill journey, Jack, his family and his team have stayed true to their mission. To produce the finest, most robust, enduring and stylish surf and sportswear clothing and accessories possible. To work with innovators and enthusiasts. To push the technical boundaries of what sports clothing can do so we can all explore and enjoy the natural world for longer.

The future health and promotion of adventure sports remain at the heart of the O’Neill brand. 

"It's been a hell of a ride, and long may it continue" - Jack O'Neill

Live Like Jack Film

History of O'Neill


The First Surfshop and the First Wetsuit

Jack O’Neill opens the first surf shop in 1952 off The Great Highway, San Francisco. He later invents the neoprene wetsuit through experimentation with WWII diving vests. An entire industry is born.


Move to Santa Cruz

The O’Neill brand moves from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and goes full force into the wetsuit business, expanding the line to feature different styles and a women’s fit.


The Supersuit Wetsuit

O’Neill begins experimenting with the Supersuit wetsuit and surf leash. Both take hold and push the boundaries of innovation within the surf and diving communities.


Neoprene Snow Pants

Neoprene makes its first appearance in the snow.


The Animal Wetsuit

With wetsuit durability and comfort being a primary focus, O’Neill uses the best available materials to create the Animal Wetsuit. It is the first to feature knee pads, a key design aspect that eventually expands to every model.


Hubrids & Superfreak Boardshorts

O’Neill Hybrid shorts are released, creating a walkshort that is as comfortable on land as in the water. Superfreak Series boardshorts push the boundaries of stretch fabrication with the addition of a neoprene panel, allowing surfers more freedom of movement than ever before.


O’Neill Blue

As part of their Ocean Mission, O’Neill introduces O’Neill Blue. An initiative to create sustainable casual and performance wear in order to reduce their impact on the environment.

A True Pioneer

Our founder, Jack O’Neill was a true ocean pioneer and a passionate and dedicated surfing enthusiast. His original mission for designing and producing the world’s first neoprene surfwear was that he simply “wanted to surf for longer”.

Jack’s unique approach and his zest for life revolutionised the world of surfing. He began by shaping boards and selling board wax before setting his sights on producing insulated surf vests that would help him and his fellow surfers endure the icy waters of the northern Californian coast.

Before too long, Jack’s ambitions grew to designing the first neoprene wetsuit available anywhere on the market - and so, the world began to truly get to know Jack O’Neill as one of the leading innovators of the international surfing world.

Jack remains the source of inspiration to many thousands of surfers and sports enthusiasts around the globe. Jack’s mission was to be a force for good in everything that he did. He channelled his energy, knowledge, enthusiasm and creativity into each and every design and venture. His ambition extended way beyond the O’Neill clothing ranges.

In 1985, after heading the brand’s operations in Europe and Japan, Jack passed the reins to his son, Pat, and focused for a while on a variety of environmental projects and surfing the waves once more.

In 2017, Jack O'Neill passed away at the age of 94. Today we honour his legacy. 


Jack O'Neill Memorial Paddle Out 

After Jack's passing, surfers and riders all across the globe celebrated Jack's life. There were paddle-outs in the ocean waters on every continent to bid farewell and thank Jack for his contributions to surfing.


Hear the stories of ordinary Canadians who carry on Jack's legacy by leading extraordinary lives and following their true passions, not what society says they should do.

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