Surfing world icon Jack O’Neill who pioneered wetsuit dies

In this September 7, 2006 photo, is Jack O’Neill, in Santa Cruz, Calif. A California surfing world icon who pioneered the wetsuit has died. O’Neill’s family says he died Friday, June 2, 2017, at home of natural causes. He was 94. (Dan Coyro/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)
In this September 7, 2006 photo, is Jack O’Neill, in Santa Cruz, Calif. A California surfing world icon who pioneered the wetsuit has died. O’Neill’s family says he died Friday, June 2, 2017, at home of natural causes. He was 94. (Dan Coyro/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — Jack O’Neill, a Northern California surfing world icon who pioneered the wetsuit, has died.

O’Neill’s family says he died of natural causes Friday at his Santa Cruz, California home. He was 94.

The eye-patch wearing ocean lover died peacefully, surrounded by family in his oceanfront home of more than 50 years. He began wearing a black eye patch after his surfboard hit his left eye while riding a wave.

O’Neill moved with his wife to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach neighborhood in the early 1950s. Looking to surf longer, he began experimenting with various materials until he invented the first neoprene wetsuit.

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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