SANTA CRUZ (AP) — Thousands of surfers have taken to the waters off California in tribute to wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill.
O’Neill died last month at the age of 94. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports surfers gathered for a “paddle out” service near O’Neill’s cliffside Santa Cruz home. Many of them wore O’Neill wetsuits and eye patches in honor of the covering O’Neill famously donned following a surfing injury.
A paddle out is a traditional way surfers pay tribute following the death of one of their own. It consists of surfers forming a circle in the water and tossing flowers. The Sentinel reports O’Neill’s paddle out circle stretched more than a half-mile across.
O’Neill invented the first neoprene wetsuit in the 1950s, allowing surfers to stay longer in cold water.