O'Neill is credited with creating the black neoprene wet suit that allow folks to surf in cold water. California, the surfing capital of the world, has very cold water.
Two months ago, I met a young man who surfs the coast of Maine every day of the year (yes, even in the snow) . He said his aquatic addiction was made possible by his O'Neill wet suit.
The master surfer also created the O'Neill Sea Odyssey organization in 1996. It provided hands-on educational experiences that teach thousands of children to preserve and protect the ocean.
Miami's Adam Steckley is an educator at O'Neill Sea Odyssey.
Today we went to O'Neill's memorial service next to his home in Santa Cruz, California.
There is a longstanding tradition of the "paddle out", a way to say goodbye to departed surfers.
Today thousands of watermen carried their boards to the shore
and paddled out to sea.
There, along with a few curious seals and otters, they formed a huge circle to pay tribute to the one-eyed Jack (O'Neill lost an eye in a surfing accident).
Many more -like my wife and I- watched from the cliffs a half-mile away.
When all was said from the officiating schooner, the surrounding surfers hollered and splashed in approval. It sounded like a football stadium roar rumbling across Monterrey Bay.
They owe a lot to this guy. On this foggy 62 degree morning everyone of them was kept warm by a black neoprene wet suit.