Catching The New Wave In Wet Suits

It wasn't quite cold enough to bring on what surfers call ice-cream headaches, but the thought of 15 mph winds and 59F water off Santa Cruz had me shivering. Yet a couple of hours later, I emerged warm, if exhausted, from a surfing lesson in the choppy soup with Jack O'Neill and son, Pat, of the water sport company O'Neill Inc. Wet suits have come a long way since the 1950s, when Jack O'Neill made his first with plastic, foam rubber, and a soldering iron. O'Neill's Animal, the $500 model I was wearing, is one of the most advanced on the market, a black number with high-tech grooves for extra flexibility.

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