His love for diving soon led to a keen interest in underwater photography, a hobby that required him to create his own specialized equipment. With a degree in mechanical engineering, it was natural for Hollis to start designing and manufacturing underwater camera and strobe housings in the machine shop behind the Anchor Shack, the retail sporting goods store he’d opened in Hayward, California in 1965. Before long, divers and others were asking Hollis to make equipment for them, and a successful mail order business was begun.
In 1972, Hollis founded American Underwater Products, doing business as Oceanic. The company started out with a dozen diving products, including the Anchor Shack’s photo line. After four years, Hollis took a big leap forward when he acquired Farallon, a manufacturer in nearby Belmont. That acquisition instantly gave Oceanic a full line of diving equipment, with an innovative line of instrumentation products. Hollis quickly realized digital instrumentation as the key to the future of diving. Divers need to quickly and accurately calculate many variables, such as their depth, safe dive times, and decompression requirements to avoid the bends. After the acquisition, Oceanic went to work researching and developing radically new instruments. In 1981, the company introduced the DataMax, the first mechanical depth gauge with automatic digital timer. The product was an instant hit and propelled Oceanic to the forefront of dive equipment suppliers.
In the early 1980s, Hollis helped introduce the concept of an electronic dive computer to the industry. These sophisticated instruments track, calculate, and display a wealth of critical information for divers, including dive time and depth, ascent rate, air consumption, nitrogen absorption, and other essential information needed to dive safely. The dive computer revolutionized diving safety and is considered a mandatory piece of equipment for all divers. Hollis considers his role in developing this technology his proudest professional accomplishment.
To build products that continue to revolutionize diving, Hollis has created several sister companies under the American Underwater Products family:
Oceanic’s high performance instruments, regulators, buoyancy compensators, masks, fins, snorkels, thermal wear, and accessories are sold through more than 600 U.S. dive retailers, and worldwide through Oceanic’s affiliate companies in Australia, Singapore, Japan, England, Germany, and Italy. Oceanic has worked with NASA, the U.S. Navy, and others to research new technologies and incorporate them into recreational diving equipment.
Co-founded and operated by Bob’s son, Mike Hollis, Pelagic Pressure Systems is a leading OEM (original equipment manufacturer) supplier of mechanical and digital pressure sensing instruments to the recreational scuba industry, life-support industry, military, and industrial safety industry for companies like MSA and Respiratory Systems. Today, Pelagic Pressure Systems controls a dominant share of the recreational scuba instrumentation market through Oceanic and other brands.
ROMI Enterprises supplies precision-machined components required for the production and final assembly of a wide variety of products marketed by Oceanic and others.
2002 Design is dedicated to the design, prototyping, testing, and technical documentation of all products produced by American Underwater Products. Engineers, using Silicon Graphics workstations and state of the art three-dimensional software, design and develop new products from concept to production. A prototype can be manufactured right from the computer design, then tested, refined and turned into a production model. Oceanic's hyperbaric testing facility is considered by many to be the most sophisticated of its kind in the world. This reputation is the result of years of involvement in breathing regulator design and testing.
Hollis was recently inducted into the Diving Hall of Fame for his many contributions to diving. A true pioneer in the industry, he led the first dive travel tours, introduced scuba equipment into many resort locations, explored and filmed the wreck of the Andrea Doria, and spearheaded the development of dive computers. Most recently, Hollis has been elected President of DEMA (Diving Equipment & Marketing Association). DEMA is a global, not-for-profit organization comprised of more than 1,200 companies and organizations. DEMA's mission is to promote sustainable growth in recreational diving and snorkeling while protecting the underwater environment.
For the future, Hollis is focusing on building brand recognition, as well as continuing to expand and complement American Underwater Products offering of innovative products. With today’s consumers constantly demanding new and improved versions of everything, plus fierce competition for discretionary dollars spend on sporting equipment, no company can afford to rest on its laurels. We enhance our products every year, making them smaller, lighter, and more user friendly. Our aim is to create products that will exceed the needs of divers and also naturally extend the freedom of diving.