O'Neill Sea Odyssey Reaches 100,000th Student Milestone!
September 27, 2018 marks the day O’Neill Sea Odyssey reached its 100,000th student milestone.

September 27, 2018 marks the day O’Neill Sea Odyssey reached its 100,000th student milestone.

O’Neill Sea Odyssey welcomed aboard the program’s 100,00th student on Thursday, September 27, 2018. Stephanie Martinez’ 5th grade class from Live Oak Elementary School along with O’Neill Sea Odyssey staff, board members and the Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz, David Terrazas, gathered on the net before the Team O’Neill set sail.

Captain Tim O’Neill, who cofounded the program with his father, Jack, in 1996, was the skipper on this day. As the fog cleared, the Santa Cruz coastline lit up, and mountains covered in redwoods matched the same color green as the plankton rich sea below us. How fortunate we are to share this gem of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with students from Santa Cruz County, the Monterey Bay and beyond.

Thank you to all our supporters, friends and of course to the students. Our students’ bright smiles, endless curiosity and capacity for knowledge will lead to the continuation of protecting this area and they will go on to make big waves in the world of conservation and education!

Jack O’Neill knew that providing children with the first hand experience of riding the bow of the catamaran, catching microscopic plankton, and observing marine life in their natural habitat was the key to protecting the ocean. Through this experience, O’Neill Sea Odyssey students become ocean stewards and understand their connection to ocean life. Thank you Captain Jack for your vision!

Think of all the sets of eyes that have peered through the catamaran’s net, for many students this is their first time on a boat in the ocean. Impressions like this last a lifetime.

Photos: Nikki Brooks


Nikki Brooks
Jack O’Neill & Harry Hind Education Center

Bridget O’Neill, Dan Haifley, JJ O’Neill, Santa Cruz Mayor David Terrazas and California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird.

On September 15, 2018, O’Neill Sea Odyssey hosted a small, private ribbon cutting ceremony naming the “Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center.”

In the 1950s, Jack O’Neill lived and worked in San Francisco, where he often surfed at Kelly’s Cove, at the north end of Ocean Beach. There, he met Harry Hind. The two became life-long friends, surfing together and occasionally collaborating on various projects.

Harry Hind financially backed Jack’s idea to build a surf shop at the Santa Cruz Harbor, which subsequently morphed into a two story structure. “I had the idea to open a surf shop at the Santa Cruz Harbor, and asked Harry if he could back me on the deal”, said Jack O’Neill. “He said he would. Then Harry brought in a CPA and an attorney, and our surf shack became an 8,500-square-foot building.”

“We got approval from the harbor and built it in 1965. In 2000, Harry and I donated this building to the Sea Odyssey, to have this wonderful facility and revenue from rental space. Harry and I had a lifelong interest in the ocean, and his generosity has helped to make this program possible.”

When Jack and Harry donated the building to O’Neill Sea Odyssey, an ocean-going science and environment program for elementary school children, there were four years left on its lease with the Santa Cruz Harbor. Initial efforts by O’Neill Sea Odyssey to obtain a new lease were unsuccessful. But, as the result of fundraising for building renovations and an open door to a negotiation with the Santa Cruz Harbor to develop a new lease thanks to then-Port Director Brian Foss, our non-profit organization took the upstairs of the building and the harbor took the downstairs, for a period to end on December 31, 2028.

Today the structure houses an education center operated by O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a free, ocean-going science and environmental program for elementary schools that also uses the Team O’Neill sailing catamaran as an ocean classroom. The hands-on science program has environmental outcomes and serves 4th-6th grade students from schools in Monterey Bay and surrounding areas.

The Daniels family have generously supported the program since Harry Hind passed away in 2012, in tribute to his life-long friendship with Jack, who passed away in 2017.  Leslie Daniels, Harry’s daughter, and her husband, Troy, have made two generous gifts to establish the Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation for Monterey County. Earnings from the fund will help to support O’Neill Sea Odyssey in perpetuity.

-Dan Haifley

Photos: Nikki Brooks

Guests of the “Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center” naming ceremony enjoyed sunshine and the great view from the building’s deck.

The “Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center” ribbon cutting and naming ceremony.

The “Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center” ribbon cutting and naming ceremony.

Thank you to everyone who the joined the The “Jack O’Neill and Harry Hind Education Center” ribbon cutting and naming ceremony. Thank you for your continued support and passion to provide a unique ocean education experience for O’Neill Sea Odyssey students!

Nikki Brooks
2017-2018 Ocean Steward Art Contest Winners
Grand prize winner : "Protect Our Oceans" by Mateusz Niemiec

Grand prize winner: "Protect Our Oceans" by Mateusz Niemiec

Congratulations to Mateusz Niemiec, a 6th grader from Scotts Valley Middle School, CA, as the grand prize winner of the 2017-2018 Ocean Steward Art contest.  O’Neill Sea Odyssey and its Board of Directors selected Mateusz’s original color pencil artwork “Protect Our Oceans” which depicts an oil tanker spilling oil into the ocean.  The harmful effects of oil are catastrophic to marine life and the ocean environment.  Raising awareness about oil spills and reducing our reliance on oil is an important message.  Mateusz and his teacher, Renae Fish, will each receive family passes for a one hour public sail aboard the Team O’Neill catamaran.  In honor of Mateusz and his award winning piece, O’Neill Sea Odyssey will present an enlarged mounted copy of the artwork to both Scotts Valley Middle School and the City of Scotts Valley, who provided funding for Ms. Fish’s class. 

The eight honorable mention winners include: Jason Hsu (grade 5) of G. W. Helleyer Elementary School, Isabella Morairty (grade 4) of Vine Hill Elementary, Sofia Grigg (grade 6) of Scotts Valley Middle School, Sishira A.V. (grade 5) of Lynhaven School, Donovan Ferreira (grade 4) of Westwood Elementary, Marley Chavez-Silva, Samantha Politron and Gizelle Huerta-Orduño (grade 4) of Santa Lucia Elementary, King City, CA.  These eight students will all receive accolades as O'Neill Sea Odyssey Ocean Stewards and their artwork will be exhibited in the OSO classrooms. Congratulations to all! 

About the Ocean Steward Art Contest

The Ocean Steward Art Contest is an opportunity for students in grades 4-6, who have participated in the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program, to creatively interpret the watershed, marine and/or stewardship themes learned while attending OSO.  Additionally, it is an opportunity for OSO and its Board of Directors to connect with, recognize, and award the stewardship efforts of the students, teachers, schools and communities. You can read more about these efforts happening at King City Arts Magnet in our blog post from May 26 and view the artwork of all our past contest winners here.

Nikki Brooks
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