SANTA CRUZ -- O'Neill has a new team mascot named Ralph, who is waddling around an England zoo decked out in a custom-made wetsuit.
The famed Santa Cruz wetsuit maker adopted Ralph, a 14-year-old Humboldt penguin at Marwell Zoo, after learning the 2-foot-tall bald bird had lost all of his feathers in one day due to moulting.
It usually takes a few weeks for a penguin to lose all of its feathers while moulting. The old feathers are eventually replaced with a new set.
Ralph faced the possibility of staying indoors for three weeks to prevent sunburn while the feathers grew back before O'Neill stepped up with a sponsorship deal usually reserved for standout surfers.
"At O'Neill we strive to help and support marine habitats as well as understand the important relationship between the sea and the external environment," said Steve Peters, O'Neill's European marketing manager. "It was an absolute pleasure for us to provide Ralph with a new wetsuit. He is the ultimate cold water specialist."
The black and white neoprene wetsuit includes holes for Ralph's head and arms. His name is printed on the back in large white letters.
Zoo officials say Ralph is back to his regular routine with other penguins at the zoo, spending most of their days splashing around and eating.
"Ralph was in desperate need of a new wetsuit as his old one was starting to fall apart," said Anna Ing, Marwell's team leader of birds. "His wetsuits see a lot of activity with him constantly on the go swimming, climbing rocks and preening."
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