Revisiting Jack O'Neill's Memorial Paddle Out

One year has passed since Jack O'Neill's Memorial Paddle Out.  Last year, on July 9th 2017, thousands of people gathered along the bluffs at Pleasure Point while thousands more took to the water by surfboard, boat, outrigger, paddle board or kayak.  An enormous ring formed as sea farers grasped one another's hands and their legs dangled in the dense kelp forest in front of Captain O'Neill's beloved home at Pleasure Point.  The ring encompassed his traditional sailing schooner, the Marie Celine, and the prestigious 65' Team O'Neill catamaran that has sailed nearly 100,000 students for the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program.  If we could get a view from below the kelp beds, imagine what a sight!

On this day we gathered to celebrate the legacy of one man and there was a great feeling of joy and exuberance.  O'Neill's first pro surfer, South Africa’s Shaun Tomson, delivered a poignant eulogy, “Jack built his life on passion and purpose. Passion for surf and a purpose to love and to be loved. Jack succeeded in creating a blood family (his children) and a water family. And his purpose was to make us laugh and to create O’Neill Sea Odyssey, and introduce young people to the ocean, and transform thousands of lives. So he was a guy that gave back more than he received.” 

Next time you pull that wetsuit on before your surf session or you visit the beach, remember that feeling of community and the power of love that we shared that day.  Catch a wave, share a wave, be stoked to be in the ocean!   


Nikki Brooks
Feeding Humpback

Motor-sailing slowly just off the west side of the Santa Cruz Wharf yesterday afternoon, our 30 students from The Spot Camp took notice of the schooling bait fish in the water beneath the catamaran. Aside from a few sea lions near the wharf pilings though, the surface waters above this school were relatively quiet. It was just a matter of time apparently, before the lunge-feeding spectacle began.

At Point Santa Cruz (Steamer Lane) earlier today, intrepid kayaker, Steve Lawson, encountered a humpback whale just off the wharf. He paddled along and captured these images as the whale swam in toward Cowell Beach and back out again.

"There are several boats anchored off the west side of the wharf but this didn't phase the whale as it fed among them. At one point it cruised all the way around the wharf from midway on the west side to midway on the east side. Unfortunately, then I had to leave. I missed a great shot when the whale surfaced nose to nose with my boat. But considering the whale was about 3 feet off my bow, I thought it was better to back paddle."

Thank you, Steve, for always sharing your Monterey Bay adventures with us. We're pleased to witness these magnificent creatures through your lens.

Adam Steckley
Celebration Success!

Te Hau Nui dancers pose behind Santa Cruz Sand's "100,000" creation. Thank you, Bill, for your amazing sand sculpture.

This past Sunday, June 24, was a special day for O'Neill Sea Odyssey. It was a day of celebration to acknowledge the nearly 100,000 students who have participated in the ocean science program and to recognize and thank the community of supporters who have made it possible over the last 22 years. In addition, the late OSO founder, Jack O'Neill, was honored by the City of Santa Cruz. Mayor David Terrazas led the dedication to re-name the street above Cowell Beach, "Jack O'Neill" Way, the site where the first O'Neill Surf Shop in Santa Cruz once stood.

In a surprise announcement, Mayor Terrazas seized the opportunity to present OSO Executive Director, Dan Haifley, with a key to the City in recognition of his longstanding community and ocean activism. Also recognized by the Mayor was Rebecca Aiello, a young student who proposed "Pick up a Beach Day" in the City of Santa Cruz to protect our coastal waters and marine life from pollution. Miss Aiello was awarded a Mayor's Proclamation and commended by Tucker Hirsch of Save Our Shores. Speaking to further recognize Jack O'Neill and the O'Neill Sea Odyssey milestone were Brian Kilpatrick of O'Neill Wetsuits, Bridget O'Neill, Dan Haifley, Senator Bill Monning and Assemblymember Mark Stone.

Photos courtesy of Nikki Brooks and Jasper Lyons.

Attendees were treated to a special "Ballad of Jack O'Neill" by Robert Seals of The Wavetones and special coverage of the event was provided by KSBW 8 News.

One of the highlights under the tents on the beach was the marine debris art activity which was coordinated by volunteers Rachel Kippen, Theresa Coyle, Janice Otis and Shirley Busch. Utilizing O'Neill graphics and logos, event attendees adhered pieces of plastic pollution collected from beach and river cleanups to create three unique panels designed to raise awareness around ocean pollution.

Traditional Hawaiian woven mats (created by Rachel from repurposed agricultural drip-tape) were the tools for another activity where participants created stamp art led by volunteer Jim Laske. OSO interns, Sophie Holin and Tobin Zunes-Wolfe, were the artist and photographer respectively, behind the face painting and "photo booth" activities, while Louanne Korver displayed and sold prints of her beautiful portrait of Jack O'Neill.

Te Hau Nui dancers performed for event attendees on the plaza in a display of grace, color and flare. Following variations of traditional hula and Tahitian dance, Director Lorraine Kinnamon invited the public on to the dance floor for their finale.

 Captain Justin Moore, of O'Neill Yacht Charters, paused for a moment during their sail along the Cowell Beach shoreline as a nod to OSO's milestone.

Captain Justin Moore, of O'Neill Yacht Charters, paused for a moment during their sail along the Cowell Beach shoreline as a nod to OSO's milestone.

 Santa Cruz Sand man, Bill Lewis.

Santa Cruz Sand man, Bill Lewis.


Nearing the end of the celebration, the winning raffle ticket for a 2-hour private charter aboard the Team O'Neill catamaran was drawn.  Congratulations to Camille Clark of Santa Cruz for being the lucky winner!


Thank you to everyone who joined in the celebration Sunday! We are truly grateful for the amazing support over the last 14 months during our 100,000th Student Campaign and were thrilled to share this milestone alongside the community. 

Special thanks to our sponsors, Dream Inn Santa Cruz, Merrill Lynch's The Basuino Souza Group, and Nordic Naturals.

 Jack O'Neill soaring above in his "Air Ship".
Adam Steckley
99,358 and Counting!
 Last Friday, June 15, Nueva Vista Community Resources students joined the count toward 100,000 Ocean Stewards.

Last Friday, June 15, Nueva Vista Community Resources students joined the count toward 100,000 Ocean Stewards.

Reaching our 100,000th Ocean Steward is a distinctive milestone achievement we wish to celebrate with you, our supporters. From serving our first student in 1996, whose class participated thanks to the vision of OSO founder Jack O'Neill, to our successes over two decades later, we owe it all to you.

As a supporter of O'Neill Sea Odyssey, you are an integral part of this momentous occasion. This celebration is as much for you, and in recognition of your contributions to OSO, as it is for the nearly 100,000 youth we've provided with lasting ocean science experiences.

To-date, we have served 99,358 students and will likely reach our milestone in early fall, roughly 25 more classes. In advance of this special day, we invite you to join us at Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz on Sunday, June 24, to celebrate from 1 - 4 PM.

Adam Steckley
OSO Receives 5-Star Rating

O'Neill Sea Odyssey is thrilled to receive such accolades from our Ocean Stewards. To all the Westwood Elementary 4th graders who took the time to create these wonderful cards, we thank you from the bottom of our oceans.

Adam Steckley
OSO Stewards March for the Ocean
Sunrise Middle 0042.jpg

Today, Sunrise Middle School students presented O'Neill Sea Odyssey instructors Julia, Nikki and Kaila with their collaborative "Ocean Pollution" information boards produced as part of their OSO Community Service Project. Sunrise Middle School sixth graders are responsible for cleaning up the Lower Silver Creek near their school in San Jose in the fall and again in the spring. Through this volunteer effort, and in preparation for their OSO field trip, they learn how the waste that goes into neighborhood creeks ultimately can make its way to the ocean and harm fish and other marine life.


In addition, the sixth graders read World Without Fish and are also raising money for ocean causes.


Thank you, Sunrise Middle School students, for spreading the word about plastic pollution. Your message and efforts have a big impact in our community and beyond. You are truly Ocean Stewards!


Adam Steckley
In Loving Memory of Jack

Jack O'Neill

March 27, 1923 - June 2, 2017

 July 9, 2017 Memorial Paddle-Out, Pleasure Point, California. Photo courtesy of Nikki Brooks   

July 9, 2017 Memorial Paddle-Out, Pleasure Point, California. Photo courtesy of Nikki Brooks



Thank you, Jack!

Adam Steckley
OSO's Advisory Board Convenes

Earlier this week, members of OSO's Advisory Board met with the O'Neill Sea Odyssey Board of Directors and staff to review the proposed Five Year Strategic Plan for 2019-2023. Following Executive Director Dan Haifley's presentation, various input and ideas were discussed which the BOD will consider in the final version of the plan, to go into effect January 1, 2019 and guide O'Neill Sea Odyssey's annual operations through the end of 2023.

Advisory Board members in attendance were (from left to right):  Mike Rotkin, Stephany Aguilar, Jess Brown, Emily Reilly, Ana Ventura Phares, Harvey Nickelson, Joyce Anderson, and Robert Stephens.

 O'Neill Sea Odyssey courses available through Pepper.

O'Neill Sea Odyssey courses available through Pepper.

In addition, presentations were provided by both Education Coordinator, Laura Walker, and Operations Coordinator, Adam Steckley. Laura discussed the ongoing project to distribute OSO's science curriculum nationally through the Pepper College Readiness Network while Adam shared results and highlights of the 100,000th Student Campaign including details about the upcoming milestone celebration.


Thanks to all who support the program, O'Neill Sea Odyssey is poised for continued success over the next five years and beyond!

Adam Steckley