O’Neill’s Santa Cruz, Not Your Typical Irish Bar

This lounge is dedicated to a surf legend.

The cold waters off the California coast made one piece of surfing equipment a must: the thermal barrier suit, later known as the wet suit. So it made sense that a San Franciscan, Jack O’Neill, would invent it in 1952. Subsequently, he opened a garage off that city’s Great Highway selling the new suit and other surfer needs. He coined his garage a “surf shop.” And another garage-to-riches story was born.

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As the business grew, O’Neill moved to a space in surf-central Santa Cruz, on Cowell Beach. A plaque marks the spot where that shop was. Now, it’s part of the Dream Inn.

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You may not see O’Neill cruising the boardwalk or surfing the breaks at Steamer Lane anymore. But the Jack O’Neill Lounge, located beach level in the midcentury hotel, is almost like having a drink with the man. A gigantic head shot with a patch over the eye looks on while you sip. An O’Neill surfboard hangs above the bar, a glass case encloses an original wet suit, and a collage of photographs decorates a couple of walls. You’ve just become a little more familiar with what this ocean town is all about… without even moving from your bar chair.

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