Surfers in Santa Cruz and around the world will honor the life of Jack O’Neill with a paddle out this Sunday, July 9th. The surfing legend and wetsuit pioneer died last month. He was 94.
The paddle out to honor Jack O’Neill is expected to be so big it’s taken a month to plan. Event organizer Brian Kilpatrick has been lining up volunteers and getting road closures in place.
“Oh yeah, I mean the thing is like it will probably be the unofficial biggest paddle that’s happened in North America for sure,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick is Vice President of Marketing Communications at O’Neill, the surf company founded by Jack O’Neill. He says the largest paddle out on record had just over 500 surfers. That happened recently in Huntington Beach, California. It set the Guinness World Record.
Kilpatrick expects thousands to turn out in Santa Cruz alone. Since Jack O’Neill’s impact was global, paddle outs will also be happening around the world in South Africa, Scotland, the UK, and Japan.
“I mean the outpouring of love and support from the community, the surf community and just everyone wanting to help and wanting to volunteer it’s been pretty heartwarming honestly,” Kilpatrick said.
Out in front of Jack O’Neill’s Pleasure Point home, flowers and cards still decorate the fence. For the paddle out, people will gather in the ocean behind O’Neills home, form two big circles and hold hands. Flowers will be spread out on the water and there will be speakers and music.
Surfer Kristin Seagraves says she won’t miss it.
"Without him this sport would not be anywhere it is, especially with the cold water we have. I’m not much of a person for crowds, but I just said I’ll be there just to be a part of it because I think it's going to be pretty amazing,” said Seagraves.
The ceremony starts at 11 Sunday morning. East Cliff Drive between 30th and 41st Avenue will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.