The Inventor


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Photo: Howard “boots” McGhee

From the time I was a little pre-pubescent pipsqueak, I’ve had a deep yearning to invent. Sometimes my inventions would come in the shapes of booby traps for my unsuspecting parents, but most of the time they had to do with the activities I was passionate about, like surfing and skateboarding.

 Sandboarding was a hybrid sport my friends and I created during the summertime doldrums. It involved taking old shoes and screwing them onto skateboard decks. We’d then hike to the top of our local dirt cliffs, lace up and proceed to huck our way down the steep hillside. Ah yes, those were the good ol’ days of poison oak, stained clothes and disgruntled parents. On other occasions we’d bungee boogie boards to our skateboards so we could paddle down the sidewalk on our stomachs, pop up and surf the cement down the street.  

 A more recent creation was a new type of balance board using a sphere instead of a cylinder. We created a folding base so you could use it on the beach and it proved to be an incredible training device for board sports. I think it’s safe to say the inventor bug will be engrained in me for life. And for that reason, my idols are not rocking flashy jackets and singing to the masses, but the ones cooped up in dark garages tinkering on game-changing ideas: inventors like Elon Musk, Yvonne Chouinard, Simon Anderson and the late, great Jack O’Neill are the figures who inspire me.

Especially Jack.

 I remember seeing an old image where he was ballooned up in one of his prototype wetsuits like an inflated blueberry, adorned with a huge grin, and thinking, “That guy knows how to party.” His creations were built with the goal of keeping that fun train going. Whether he was being hoisted up by a hot air balloon or enjoying a five-star meal on the sand bank inside of the Santa Cruz Harbor, the guy lived life with passion and exuberance. And his greatness didn’t stop there. He was also a huge advocate for ocean education and the protection of its marine creatures. The implementation of The O’Neill Sea Odyssey Program, which takes fourth to sixth grade students out on the Monterey Bay for an unforgettable learning experience, is still going strong and have served a remarkable 94,281 students to-date.   

Jack was a man who gave back. Probably in more ways than we can even imagine. So every time I make way down the stairs next to the green house on the cliff, I’ll salute that one-eyed legend and appreciate the fact that we are now living in an era where it’s “always summer in the inside.”

Learn more about the O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s 100,000th Student campaign HERE.  


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