The Jack O'Neill paddle-out: around 2,500 surfers paid tribute to the father of the modern wetsuit | Photo: Shaun Tomson

Thousands of anonymous surfers have paddled out in honor of surf legend and wetsuit pioneer Jack O'Neill, in Santa Cruz, California.

He was a visionary and one of the dearest symbols of surfing. Jack O'Neill, the father of the modern wetsuit, died at 94, but his legacy will inspire future generations.

On July 9, 2017, around 2,500 surfers paddled out at Pleasure Point, California, to pay tribute to the bearded surf pirate. After forming a circle in the ocean, they all splashed and threw flowers in the water.

But there were also people in dozens of boats and vessels, and thousands up on the cliffs ready to honor the waterman who passed away on June 2, 2017.

There were surfers wearing eye patches and, inside the circle, Jack's O'Neill Sea Odyssey held company employees, guests and 1977 world surfing champion Shaun Tomson, who spoke a eulogy for the late surfing icon.

"For all of us floating out here, some of the best moments of our lives have been spent in the water – waiting under the great dome of sky and catching that perfect wave that has taken us to where we need to be," said Tomson.

"And for most of us that great ride has happened in a wetsuit that Jack invented – that he created simply because he wanted to surf more, and that pure passion got us all to surf more, and that pure passion grew into a company spanning the world."

But there were also memorial paddle-outs being held in all corners of the globe including Australia, Canada, South African and the United Kingdom.

Jack O'Neill once said: "The three most important things in life: surf, surf, surf." Let us never forget it.