O’Neill Legacy Memorialized

blog oneillsMural and plaque honor the original Santa Cruz O’Neill surf shop

When Jack O’Neill opened his first surf shop in Santa Cruz, in 1959, he had no idea just how famous his brand would eventually become.

The shop, which originally opened in San Francisco in 1952, relocated to near Cowell Beach where it had a profound impact on the surfing culture in Santa Cruz County.

O’Neill invented neoprene wetsuits, which allowed surfers to brave the icy cold waters of Santa Cruz. Wetsuits revolutionized the sport of surfing, as well as the Santa Cruz economy.

“A global industry grew from that small family-run storefront,” says Crystal Birns, the city arts program manager for economic development in Santa Cruz. “The business grew steadily, earning global recognition as a pioneer and leader in the world of surfing.”

Today, there are three O’Neill stores in Santa Cruz, with several locations all across the United States.

In May 2012, the original site of Jack O’Neill’s shop was given the honor of State of California Point of Historical Interest, thanks to the efforts of Councilmember David Terrazas, with support from Don Lauritson, the staff liaison for Historic Preservation.

On Monday, March 25 at 5 p.m., an interpretive mural will be unveiled to celebrate O’Neill’s legacy here in Santa Cruz.

The mural, although temporary, was the result of the collaboration between The Economic Development Department and Studio Holladay, a local brand communications agency.

Local designer Mariah Roberts was project manager for the paper mural, and she, along with several Sunrise Rotary Club volunteers, installed it on Sunday, March 17. A permanent bronze plaque will also be unveiled on Monday, and Terrazas notes that those who are interested in helping erect a permanent mural should contact him at [email protected]

“We’ve been working on creating a permanent mural to recognize Jack O’Neill and his family for establishing the surf shop in 1959,” says Terrazas. “We’re taking submissions for designs, and getting feedback from the public on what they’d like to see.”

Visit facebook.com/scsurfshop for project updates.


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