In 1953, twin brothers Bill and Bob Meistrell co-founded Body Glove when they designed the first practical wetsuit. It all began in a pool in Booneville, Missouri.
Bill and Bob were fascinated with the water. When they were 14 years old, they fashioned their own diving helmet out of a vegetable can and a tire pump. One explored the bottom of a pool reading magazines while the other held the air pump on the surface.
In 1953 we invented the first practical wetsuit, which revolutionized surfing and diving. We came up with the phrase “fits like a glove” and Body Glove was born. — Bill & Bob Meistrell
The Meistrell family packed up and moved to Manhattan Beach in 1944. Bill and Bob immediately fell in love with the ocean. They soon began surfing as balsa boards caught on, and they were among the first to glass the nose of their foam-filled plywood boards. During their time at El Segundo High School, the boys bought a dive helmet for $25—it was cheap because the previous owner died while using it... Marching all over the breakwater, while donning the helmet, opened up a whole new world for Bill and Bob.
After graduating from El Segundo High, the Meistrell twins became full-time lifeguards. Shortly thereafter, the brothers were drafted into the Army: Bill was sent to Korea while Bob was transferred to Monterey. Bill earned a Bronze Star for his service in Korea while Bob remained stateside with the opportunity to serve and to perfect his night surfing in Santa Cruz by car headlight.
In 1953, Bev Morgan offered Bill the opportunity to buy into his local marine/dive shop, Dive N’ Surf. Bev owned the shop with Hap Jacobs, who later pioneered the modern surfboard. Jacobs wanted out and Bill accepted the offer on the condition that his brother Bob be brought in as the third partner. Bev agreed, Bob and Bill borrowed $1,800 from their mother, and each bought one-third of the business. To keep themselves afloat, the twins continued lifeguarding on a part-time basis.
Bill and Bob needed to find a way to combat California’s cold water. They tried everything from wartime electrically heated flyers’ suits to wool sweaters that lasted only as long as they were dry. Finally, in 1953, they discovered an insulating material used in the back of refrigerators. With this “neoprene” the Meistrell brothers fashioned the first practical wetsuits, and Body Glove was born.