In the photo-heavy oral history Jack O’Neill: It’s Always Summer on the Inside, legendary surf scribe and former editor of Surfer and Surfing Drew Kampion chronicles the hardworking, wild life of the innovator of the wetsuit. O’Neill, now 88 years old, hasn’t slowed down since his Depression-era upbringing in Los Angeles: He went to school barefoot, was dyslexic, rarely saw his dad (“I think we went fishing twice,” he tells Kampion), and was a hell-raiser — thrown out of Catholic school at 15. He worked as a newspaper boy, telegram deliverer, longshoreman, accountant, plastics salesman, pilot (­towing beach-banner ads), lifeguard, and crab-pot weaver. To this day, O’Neill says his main inspiration struck at age nine, when he first bodysurfed. “I still remember getting a dinky wave — coming in with that whitewater, being propelled by nature.” He became a surfing pioneer as one of a handful who braved the chilly waters of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach in the early 1950s. By the age of 29, he’d opened his first surf shop and started experimenting with an innovation that forever altered the sport — the wetsuit. Surfers had been asking for years, How can we keep warm enough to remain in the water? Thanks to O’Neill, it’s a question they haven’t had to ask since.

In the photo-heavy oral history Jack O’Neill: It’s Always Summer on the Inside, legendary surf scribe and former editor of Surfer and Surfing Drew Kampion chronicles the hardworking, wild life of the innovator of the wetsuit. O’Neill, now 88 years old, hasn’t slowed down since his Depression-era upbringing in Los Angeles: He went to school barefoot, was dyslexic, rarely saw his dad (“I think we went fishing twice,” he tells Kampion), and was a hell-raiser — thrown out of Catholic school at 15. He worked as a newspaper boy, telegram deliverer, longshoreman, accountant, plastics salesman, pilot (­towing beach-banner ads), lifeguard, and crab-pot weaver. To this day, O’Neill says his main inspiration struck at age nine, when he first bodysurfed. “I still remember getting a dinky wave — coming in with that whitewater, being propelled by nature.” He became a surfing pioneer as one of a handful who braved the chilly waters of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach in the early 1950s. By the age of 29, he’d opened his first surf shop and started experimenting with an innovation that forever altered the sport — the wetsuit. Surfers had been asking for years, How can we keep warm enough to remain in the water? Thanks to O’Neill, it’s a question they haven’t had to ask since.

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