O’Neill’s next major milestone came in 1971, when Pat O’Neill – one of Jack’s six children – invented the surf leash.
The widespread and rapid introduction of the leash enabled surfers to risk more on each wave without having to swim for their boards after each wipeout. The sport’s progression went into overdrive as surfers enjoyed a new found freedom through another O’Neill invention.
Interestingly enough, Jack lost the use of his left eye while surfing at Privates, his favorite break in Santa Cruz. On the last wave of his session, Jack’s board hit a rock and came back at him, hitting him in the eye. Jack didn’t dwell on his personal loss, emphasizing his strength of character. Jack’s bearded eye patch look has become almost as iconic as the brand he created.
As the 1970’s progressed, O’Neill continued to develop the relationship between the brand, its customers and the environment. New products were introduced, including the Supersuit, roof rack and board bag. Lying at the core of these products was Jack’s determination to facilitate the exploration of the natural world.