SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A record breaking paddle out Sunday morning as thousands of surfers payed tribute to Jack O’Neill. For many surfers, if it weren’t for Jack’s invention of the wetsuit, many wouldn’t be able to stay out in the water long, let alone surf at all.
But there’s a special place for Jack in the hearts of the Dirt Farmers.
"Well basically we were a bunch of displaced humans that needed a place to hang out,” said Ernie “The Ern Dog” Boyman. “We took care of each other, we were a family and we were a community."
Known as the Dirt Farm by locals is a stretch of open space, mostly dirt and sand, along East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. It’s an area that Jack O’Neill cherished.
"And then he went on to say, 'you know why I like the Dirt Farmers? Because they keep the place clean and kick out any low lifes,'" said Mike “Fisherman Mike” Shipp.
That is why Jack went on the buy the property, keeping it undeveloped and open to the public. A part of his way to help connect people to the ocean.
"For Jack, it was all about getting people in the water and that inspired the wetsuit invention and evolution," said Mark Massara, General Counsel and VP of Social Responsibility with O’Neill Wetsuits.
Massara mentioned that the beach front lots known as the Dirt Farm could go for millions, however won’t go up for sale, as the area is now dedicated to Jack and all his conservation efforts.
"It's about how you get from enjoying the ocean and being an advocate for coastal conservation,” added Massara. “And for him it was surf, surf, surf."
And as for the Dirt Farmers, they’re forever grateful for all that Jack has done.
"I liked seeing him up on the porch watching us because he would live through us I think,” said Boyman.
"I think he was addicted to fun, I think that was his thing,” added Shipp. “Jack was bien gente man."
The Dirt Farm is now named Jack O’Neill Park.