This Week's Poll


Local Master Instructor/Diver shares love for ocean and life

Master Dive Instructor Jim Hollis tying off to a log in Troy Springs at 50 feet down. -Photo by Dive @nikkil83

Jim and Nancy Hollis. -Photo: Submitted

By Tami Stevenson

Local Mayo businessman and entrepreneur Jim Hollis grew up loving the water. As a kid growing up in Jacksonville, he recalls his mother taking him to the city pool where he would go in the morning and wouldn’t come home until the afternoon. He would spend every day he could swimming and diving off the boards at the pool.

“I’ve always been around the ocean and water. I thought everybody was that way (growing up),” exclaimed Hollis.

No one would have thought the young boy diving off the boards at the Jacksonville city pool would one day own seven scuba dive shops throughout Florida–train divers for world renowned theme parks like Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, work with universities and the military training Navy Seals and help create and write the instruction books and guidelines for the International Diving Educators Association (IDEA). According to the IDEA website, in the late ’70’s Hollis was voted in as the National Training Director of IDEA, reorganizing it to become an international certification agency.

He had the opportunity, one day, to visit Mayo and go boating down the Suwannee River. Being a diver and instructor, he fell in love with the springs, especially a little piece of property along the Suwannee, in Lafayette County, that was home to Convict Spring, a natural fresh water spring that feeds the Suwannee River.

The property was ideal for him because his students had to make a number of dives that were not in swimming pools. Hollis said they were coming up to Jennings and Troy Springs on the weekends to do their first three dives then the last two dives in the ocean. Hollis thought this property would perfectly suit his needs, but the land was not for sale at the time. His persistence paid off, however, and Hollis, along with his first wife, Cheryl, were able to purchase about 15 acres along the Suwannee River and Convict Springs was part of it. Today, it is home to the Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort & Campground. Jim and Cheryl Hollis created and owned the resort for twenty years minus one day before he sold it a few years ago.

Training at Troy Springs -Photo by Dive @nikkil83

His wife, Cheryl, sadly passed away more than eight years ago. He thought he would never re-marry, but after hiring a new bookkeeper, Nancy Wilson, a widow of then eight years, who also thought she would never re-marry, it happened when they least expected it. They were only friends for the first couple of years, then as time passed and their relationship grew, they realized they loved each other and decided to marry nearly five years ago.

The Hollis’ strongly believe in giving back to the community. Jim served as the Lafayette County Chamber President for eight years and was involved in Pioneer Days and other Mayo events. Today, he and Nancy work with the town of Branford and are heavily involved in helping to organize events such as their popular Christmas parade. The theme is ‘Keeping Christ in Christmas’ and has become very popular.

Hollis is also an ordained minister. He said after years of working with people and having employees that would come to him with questions needing advice he said,

“I was chasing God anyway, so I decided to pursue the ministry to have some answers to help them. I’m not pushing religion, I just push Jesus,” he exclaimed.
He attributes his success to the Lord.

“I think you need to keep the Lord first and take Him with you as you go.” He believes in hard work and doesn’t like to take vacations very often. He loves getting up early and is willing to stay up late. Whatever it takes to get the job done. Being a dive instructor he said he teaches with one hand and preaches with the other. “If you stay with God, you cannot fail, He won’t let you. Even when you mess up, He won’t let you fail,” he added.

When asked what he likes best about the water he said the beauty of it. “The most beautiful colors in the world are underwater in the ocean–not in the lakes and rivers–in the ocean. The fish are so beautiful.” His favorite thing to do is teaching and helping others to have a good time. The Hollis’ love people and helping others. Spearfishing and underwater photography are also high on the list of favorites.

Along with being a master charter boat captain, according to his Facebook page, (Jim Hollis’ Scuba 7), Hollis is a Master Instructor for IDEA, PADI, NAUI, SDI and CMAS. He teaches Open Water all the way to Open Water Instructor. While maintaining a perfect safety record he has certified over 7,000 individuals. He works with handicapped divers and continues that service today. Hollis also teaches spearfishing, underwater photography, night diving, drift diving, river diving, boat diving and Nitrox diving 1 and 2.

While accurate, simply saying that Jim Hollis is a master instructor/diver does not quite describe this local Mayo businessman, entrepreneur and minister who loves the Lord, loves people and loves life. He wanted to add that he does not feel he is any different than anyone else. He said he is just a blessed man that loves God. “I think the more I love Him the more He blesses me. But one doesn’t ask for the other. I bless God because I love Him, not because of what He does for me.”

He offered words of encouragement for anyone that wanted to start their own business and become an entrepreneur–find out what you like to do, make sure God is in it with you, and be willing to work hard to make it happen.

Training at Fanning Springs -Photo: Submitted

Jim Hollis, far right, with some recent students. -Photo: Submitted

Jim Hollis at Troy Springs -Photo by Dive @nikkil83