Oceanic founder and scuba pioneer Bob Hollis dies, age 85

Bob Hollis Bob Hollis

The diving industry is mourning the loss of Bob Hollis, who passed away on 4 January 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his family by his side.

Born on April 25, 1937, in Orland, California, Hollis was a pioneering US diver, photographer and equipment manufacturer who led a life of adventure. He will be remembered by many as a groundbreaking influence in both the sport of scuba diving and underwater photography.

In a heartfelt obituary, Huish Outdoors remembers a man who leaves behind a legacy as a pioneer, entrepreneur, businessman, and most importantly, a loving father and grandfather.

Hollis’ love of the ocean began in 1955 after reading an article about underwater exploration in Popular Mechanics. Following his first scuba experience, he became obsessed with the water, becoming one of the earliest underwater photographers on the West Coast and establishing the Underwater Photographic Society of Northern California in 1966. Additionally, Hollis was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Underwater Parks and Reserves (California State Parks Department), where he assisted in exploring the coastline and identifying future areas for preservation, including Point Lobos, La Jolla and the Salt Point State Park.

A true entrepreneur, when Hollis realised that the scuba diving and photography equipment available at that time did not meet his needs, he set about developing his own. All of this was done while he continued to attend school for business and engineering and worked at Standard Oil to support his young family.

In 1966, Hollis opened the Anchor Shack dive shop in Hayward, California, and began developing underwater camera housing, strobes and hand lights, which served as the jumping-off point for his company Oceanic. By 1976, the Oceanic product line had completely developed, ultimately turning Hollis and the Oceanic brand into leaders in the scuba diving community.

Over the course of his lifetime, Hollis founded many companies including American Underwater Products, Pelagic Pressure Systems, ROMI Enterprises and the renowned scuba diving brands, Oceanic, Hollis, and Aeris. Hollis said he wanted everyone to experience scuba diving and gave thousands around the world the opportunity to do so.

Using his experience, Hollis helped create an underwater saturation system in 1978 for the Andrea Doria shipwreck. The system was attached to the wreck at a depth of 240 feet for up to seven days, allowing divers to explore the wreck for several days without having to swim to the surface. Hollis logged more dives than anyone on the wreck and in 1981 served as the underwater photographer for the nationally aired film called, Andrea Doria: The Final Chapter, detailing the team’s goal of recovering the bank safe from the famed sunken Italian ocean liner.

In addition to developing photography and scuba diving equipment, Hollis was also responsible for leading some of the first dive trips to Cozumel, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Belize, Yucatan Peninsula and the Galapagos. He also led tours to the remote destination of Papua New Guinea, where he later built a family home and destination dive resort for other underwater enthusiasts.

Over his storied career, Hollis received many awards and achievements including the Nogi Award, the Dema Reaching Out Award, and was an inductee of the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

Throughout all his professional success, Hollis said his greatest achievement was his family, including his children Debbie (Jon), Mike (Molly), Nick (Brittany) and Zach (Danica), grandchildren Heather, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Caitlin, Robert, Seth, Preston, Olivia and Sloane, and great-grandchildren Benjamin, Natalie, Henry, Eleanor, Samuel, Ian and Colin. Hollis shared his passion for the ocean and travelling the world with them, including abalone diving trips on the California coast, family live-aboard dive trips and motorcycle adventures..

The family is holding a private memorial service in Orland, California. They have asked for everyone interested in honouring Hollis’ memory to share their stories and photos via social media, or with the family directly over email. In lieu of flowers, the family requests for donations to be made to ocean conservation charities in Hollis’ memory.

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