REDONDO BEACH — The Southern California city of Redondo Beach has unveiled a bronze statue of the twin brothers who fashioned the first practical wetsuit out of a refrigerator insulant and went on to found the surfing giant Body Glove.
The sculpture of Bob and Bill Meistrell was revealed Thursday during a ceremony at the brothers’ favorite spot, Seaside Lagoon, more than 60 years after they first used neoprene to create a suit that could protect surfers and divers from the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The invention was the birth of a business that remains family-owned and generates $200 million each year, the Daily Breeze reported on Friday.
Several hundred people gathered as their sons, Billy and Robbie Meistrell, placed leis around statue.
“This is their favorite place,” Billy Meistrell said. “They drove down here three, four times a day to go diving, check on their boat, help somebody out. I can’t think of a more fitting place than standing there, greeting everyone coming in and out of this harbor.”
The pair grew up in Boonville, Missouri, diving in a pool using a 5-gallon vegetable can for a diving helmet and a tire pump and hose for air.
After working as Los Angeles County ocean lifeguards and serving in the Army, the Meistrells bought into the Dive N’ Surf store and crafted their now-famous wetsuit in 1953.
Lore has it that the name Body Glove came about when a marketing consultant asked the brothers how their wetsuit fit and they replied, “Like a glove.”
Bill Meistrell died of Parkinson’s disease in 2006.
Bob Meistrell suffered a heart attack last June, on Father’s Day, while working in the engine room of his 72-foot boat as it led a paddleboard race from Catalina Island to the mainland.
Still, their memory and work ethic infuse the company and their story remains well-known in the beach community they loved.
“They never went to work,” Billy Meistrell said. “They worked harder than anyone I know, but it was passion and love.”