Jack O'Neill: Beneath the Waves

Jack O'Neill Portrait

Jack O'Neill 1923-2017

Among surfers and beachgoers alike, the classic surf brand O’Neill wetsuits remains a household name. Nevertheless, few people truly know about the man behind the brand; the man who succeeded in creating a legacy, and unknowingly impacted the lives of millions of watermen by virtue of his passion for being in the ocean and his dedication to the preservation of our beautiful planet. Jack O’Neill was a creator who looked for ways to enhance the time spent doing what he loved. He was born in 1923 in Denver, Colorado and passed away in 2017 at his coastal home in Santa Cruz, California.


The purpose of our documentary unit is to highlight an influential person or place in our community that we felt deserved to have their story told. Because I am passionate about the ocean and about surf culture, Jack O'Neill immediately came up as the best option because of his important role in the surf community.

For this project, I combined my skills from my Digital Media class, English class, and Design class to create a website using Dreamweaver and a book using InDesign which portray the life of Jack O'Neill.

In my Digital Media class, I used Adobe After Effects to create a one minute intro commercial about Jack.

Here is a screenshot of my work in ProTools. I used ProTools to record my voice and mix it with quotes from my inerviewees, and background music.

Here is the finished product.


Book Thumbnail

My book is titled Jack O’Neill: Beneath the Waves (Click on Jack to see my finished book!). I decided to that this titled would help portray the metaphor in comparing humans to the ocean, considering that unless we dive beneath the waves, we only know what we see from the surface. This book captures the essence of Jack O’Neill, the fruitful legacy he has left behind, and how young entrepreneurs can learn from his authentic lifestyle and passion when it comes to business. For this portion of the documentary we were required to write a research paper on our desired topic. Then, using the text from our papers we would design a book using Adobe InDesign to showcase the subject of documentary using specific fonts, colors, and design schemes. I decided that I wanted my book to have a clean look while still highlighting all of Jack’s accomplishments through photos and illustrations. I based my color schemes off of the ocean and the trees, which I feel This is a screenshot of my work in InDesign. was a huge part of Jack O’Neill’s persona.

Being able to have an idea in mind for your book and then seeing it printed in real life was the best feeling in the world. Of course, this project was strenuous, especially the writing process. However, because I am passionate about the topic I chose, it was easy for me to have the aspirations to desire a perfect product. Honestly, this process was terrifying because I have produced a book before but it was really helpful to learn from prior students who had done the project before me. Overall, I am proud of the finished product.


Old Film
Ocean Lovers
O'Neill Mural Art
Jack O'Neill as Poseidon
The First Wetsuit
Wetsuits at the O'Neill Store
O'Neill Marketing Offices
O'Neill Sea Odyssey Logo
Outside O'Neill Headquarters
Team O'Neill Catamaran
Mural Outside Dream Inn
Surfboards inside Dream Inn
Fence Outside Jack's House
Jack O'Neill's House
Beach in front of Jack's House
Wetsuits Drying
Team O'Neill Catamaran
O'Neill Shop on 41st
Legends Live Forever
Rocky's Fitness Center
Team O'Neill
Jack O'Neill Lounge
O'Neill Surfboards
O'Neill Surf Shop Logo


Over the course of my documentary project, I interviewed 4 different people in order to gain a better insight on Jack O'Neill and his persona. An immense part of my writing and video was inspired by their words, as they allowed me to better understand his story.

Rocky Snyder
Rocky Snyder
" He didn’t just stop at creating or inventing the wetsuit. He was trying everything. Anything that involved the water, he just loved. "
~Rocky Snyder

Rocky Snyder is a personal trainer and the owner of Rocky’s Fitness Center in the heart of Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, California. He trained Jack O’Neill in his elder years and saw Jack as an icon of surfing and adventure in the Santa Cruz area. He spoke eloquently about the importance of Jack’s paddle-out, and provided insight on the attraction of surfing and being in the ocean.

Dan Haifley
Dan Haifley
" Jack sought serenity and peace. "
~Dan Haifley

Dan Haifley is the current CEO and Executive Director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a non-profit environmental education program for young students that Jack O’Neill started around 1983. He shared a lot of intriguing stories about Jack’s endeavors and how he took risks in order to successfully create a legacy. Haifley is clearly passionate about the program and ensures that it will last forever through Jack’s vision.

Brian Kilpatrick
Brian Kilpatrick
" All those really inaccessible spots that normally wouldn’t be surfed were opened up because of Jack’s invention, that’s a fact. "
~Brian Kilpatrick

Brian Kilpatrick is the current VP of Marking at O’Neill Wetsuits, the original wetsuit brand. He talked about his continued admiration for Jack O’Neill even as a kid when he first started surfing. He gave some great quotes from Jack that were memorable and applicable to his mindset on life and business. I was lucky enough to receive a tour from him of the O’Neill Headquarters in Santa Cruz where I understood a little more about the mission of the brand.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill
" Well pretty much every day was an adventure. You know, you didn’t really know what you were going to get into when you walked out the door. "
~Tim O'Neill

Tim O’Neill currently works at O’Neill Sea Odyssey as the Board President. As Jack O’Neill’s son, he was able to give an authentic view of everyday life with his father, expressing how everyday was an adventure. It was extremely considerate for him to go out of his way to talk to me, as I originally did not plan to speak with him.