History of the Wetsuit: "I just wanted to be warm"

Yesterday the water here in Southern California dropped a full ten degrees overnight. It went from a bathing suit 66 to a freezing, it-hurts 56 degrees.

According to the lifeguards this is due to the last big-wave swell. It came in with a strong wind and in a few days had blown away the top cover of the ocean, revealing the cold depths.

It was pretty crazy, though, because the cold switch happened overnight. Yesterday it was warm and this morning it was freezing.

56 is so col that not a single person was in the water. Yet the temperature change happened so fast that people were still walking up in boardshorts ready to go out.

I went out and immediately left the water. It hurt!

A few hours later I returned with my winter booties and full wetsuit. This left only my hands and head exposed and I was able to stay out surfing for a long time.

Occasionally, others would join me, then after 10 minutes retreat back to the shore.

This prompted me to learn about the history of the wetsuit and my first search revealed..

┬áJack O’Neill

You owe "The Cheese" a debt of gratitude. By developing the wetsuit, he allowed you to surf around the calendar and around the globe. His little shop in San Francisco is now a multimillion-dollar empire, but that wasn't why Jack O'Neill began. He just wanted to stay warm. "I'm just as surprised by this as anyone," O'Neill says. "I was just messing around with rubber."

full bio

History of the wetsuit

Before the wetsuit:

Surfers prepped for the frigid seas with frantic, almost tribal dances around beach fires, some taking to the water in wool sweaters (occasionally soaked in oil) and/or clunky, immobilizing scuba suits — anything to stave off impending numbness. Waveriding was commonly conservative; the rational being that not falling and thus staying dry was paramount to get radical. Enter┬áJack O’Neill, an inventive San Franciscan and window salesman by trade whose unwillingness to freeze his nuts off would revolutionize watergoing.

Following numerous aborted stabs at a functional, mobile suit, a bodysurfing friend who was working at a Bay Area pharmaceutical lab introduced O’Neill to a peculiar new rubber-like substance: neoprene. O’Neill quickly ordered heaps of the stuff, began hand sewing it together and, in 1952, started up San Francisco’s first surf shop along its Great Highway. Sales were brisker than the afternoon onshore winds that churned Ocean Beach. Later, he took to the road to market his invention, setting up ice-filled tanks in which he’d submerse his kids for hours to get the point across. Onlookers were stunned and overnight surfing became a year-round affair. O’Neill later moved his headquarters south to Santa Cruz, where both remain today.

full history

Back to O’Neill

Today, surfing is big business and the wetsuit industry is filled with competitors. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is good, but the O’Neill brand still stands for quality and is available in all the surf shops.

Which is pretty cool, a family company, the inventor of the wetsuit is still involved and still making the best. I think for my next wetsuit I will buy an O’Neill.

If you’re interested in learning more check out the cool website, or watch the video.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Only reason there would ever be a shortage for a medication, would be because the pharm companies that manufacture these drugs of abuse like adderall dont’ want to be liable if another incident/death occurs as it did when a college student died from apparently an overdose of adderall use. What other logical reason would there be any shortage of a drug that makes millions upon millions of dollars for these chrony pharm companies who think less about ethics, more about the money they bring in. However, when push comes to shove, they aren’t stupid. Behind the scenes, they team up with the FDA, make less of the salt in adderall, that being dextroamphetamine, which is the addictive salt that directly impacts dopamine levels and hence the cravings for many who abuse psychoactive stimulants. They put the drug on hold, calling it a “shortage”, put less of that specific salt in the newer versions of the generic they bring back to the market, and then as disgusting as is, boost up the price of this medication once the so called shortage ends. IN reality, they don’t want a huge lawsuit. By making less of the addictive salt out of the three that are in adderall, they take less of a chance of others suffering major side effects, -potentially fatal. They are thinking about themselves, rather than actually as a whole, the number of people who do use medications like adderall for therapeutic ones. I feel if any drug has potential for misuse, the pharm companies making them damn well know they are going to be making money off both those who use the drug for legitamite reasons, and than the ones(addicts who than with a drug like adderall become dependant on it which is a total other story that these chrony companies are doing nothing about in understanding addicts can not necessarily get off a drug that can have such severe mental anguish(withdrawals) they continue to use the drug like opiates to feel nomal) This is a vicious cycle, and a huge disconnect going on between the makers of the drugs, and those who take them.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *