Surfer and diver who invented neoprene wetsuit – 2006
As the “Godfather of Wetsuits,” O’Neill is a legend among surfers and scuba divers throughout the world. He invented the first wetsuit in the 1950s, and to prove their effectiveness, he filled large tubs with ice blocks and water at sports shows, and then had his kids sit in them all day. That opened up surfing and scuba diving to millions of participants who otherwise could not stand cold marine water. His business also invented the surfboard leash, a design used by virtually every surfer in the world. He then developed the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program — a free, educational cruise aboard the Team O’Neill catamaran that acquaints kids with the microbiology of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. He is an avid surfer and sailboat skipper.