Industry icon Bob Hollis passed away peacefully on January 4, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah, surrounded by family. His life, filled with adventure, began on April 25, 1937, in Orland, California when he was born to Robert and Elinor Hollis. An industry giant, Bob’s legacy as a pioneer, entrepreneur, businessman, and most importantly, a loving father and grandfather will live on forever.
Bob accomplished more in 85 years than most and lived his life to the fullest. He was a risk taker who truly did what he loved and inspired others to do the same. If there wasn’t a way, he created one.
Divers and those in the industry will remember Bob as a groundbreaking influence not only within the sport of scuba diving but also in the field of underwater photography. Bob’s love affair with the ocean began in 1955 after reading an article about underwater exploration in Popular Mechanics. Following his first scuba experience, Bob became one of the earliest underwater photographers on the West Coast and established the Underwater Photographic Society of Northern California in 1966. Additionally, Bob was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Underwater Parks and Reserves (California State Parks Department), where he helped explore the coastline and identified future areas for preservation, including Point Lobos, La Jolla and the Salt Point State Park.
A true entrepreneur, Bob truly met the moment and realized that the scuba and underwater photography equipment available at that time did not meet his needs—so he began developing his own, all while attending school for business and engineering and working at Standard Oil to support his young family.
His tenacity paid off and, in 1966, Bob opened the Anchor Shack dive shop in Hayward, California, and began developing underwater camera housing, strobes and hand lights, the foundation of his company, Oceanic. By 1976, the Oceanic product line had completely developed, ultimately turning both Bob and the Oceanic brand into leaders in the scuba community. During his lifetime, Bob founded many companies, including American Underwater Products, Pelagic Pressure Systems, ROMI Enterprises and renowned scuba diving brands Oceanic, Hollis, and Aeris.
Using his experience, Bob 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. Bob logged more dives than anyone on the wreck and, in 1981, served as the underwater photographer for the nationally aired film Andrea Doria: The Final Chapter, detailing the team’s goal of recovering the bank safe from the sunken Italian ocean liner.
In addition to developing photography and scuba diving equipment, Bob also led some of the first-ever dive trips to Cozumel, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula and the Galapagos. He also led tours to Papua New Guinea, where he later built a family home and destination dive resort.
Over his storied career, Bob 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, Bob’s 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. Bob shared his passion of the ocean and traveling the world with them, including abalone diving trips on the California coast, family liveaboard dive trips, motorcycle adventures, and creating memories for many lifetimes. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.
The family will hold private services in Orland, California and asks for those interested in honoring Bob to share your story and photos via social media. If you would like to also share those with the family, they can be sent to [email protected]. In lieu of flowers, please donate to an ocean conservation charity in Bob’s memory.