JUNE 27, 2002 Santa Cruz, CA. – Wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the category of Lifetime Achievement in the Northern California region. The award is based on business achievement combined with community service.
The awards ceremony were held on Friday June 21st and Jack (donning a tuxedo and his flip flops in true Santa Cruz style!) was accompanied by more than 50 entrepreneurs, whose industries range from software to communications were also nominated. Of the pool, surfing was one of the more original enterprises. “This was really a surprise. I’m amazed it happened,” O’Neill said. “It gives us some status, but surfing has already come into its own since I started.”
January 2002 marked 50 years of O’Neill doing business. In 1952, Jack opened his first surf shop in a garage on the Great Highway in San Francisco. There he sold his first wetsuits, a few vests he made from gluing together pieces of neoprene. From that very garage Jack expanded the average surfer’s playground from Steamer Lane to J-Bay on to Antarctica. Today, thanks to Jack O’Neill, “It’s always summer on the inside.”
O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO) was founded in 1996 by Jack O’Neill, and was incorporated in 1997 as a non-profit corporation to provide free educational lessons in ecology, navigation, and marine science on board a 65-foot catamaran sailing Monterey Bay. Through Jack’s vision, O’Neill Sea Odyssey has created a living classroom in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Ernst and Young, a global business services company, created the awards program to honor entrepreneurs whose ingenuity and perseverance has created and sustained growing companies.