Brian Hollis has spent a lifetime on the water, in and around boats.
As a child, he was tossed amid the wake on an inner tube and later at the end of a tow rope both on skis and barefoot.
He’s taught water-skiing to students from around the world, and he grew into boatbuilding, tooling a 40-foot-plus beast with three massive engines.
As an adult, Hollis took the helm as a world and national champion offshore powerboat racer.
A Gainesville entrepreneur and committed philanthropist, Hollis’ prime focus remains on the businesses his family has built, but his avocation will always be the water.
“I have a great passion for the water and boats,” Hollis said.
Spending so much time in that world and knowing the trends of water sports, Hollis hit upon an idea.
He’d seen a surge in the use of stand-up paddleboards.
The slim boards’ popularity exploded as both competitive and recreational enthusiasts found that standing on an oversized surfboard, directed by an outrigger kayak paddle, was not only challenging and physically demanding but a lot of fun.
But from a boat builder’s perspective, the boards were tricky and just not what they could be. They were difficult to handle and there was no way to store or keep items dry. And you couldn’t anchor the slippery board that was the perfect size for a fisherman both on open water and river.
So, Hollis brought on master boat builder Aksel Lund and fabricator Mark Gibson, and together they built one that could.
The approximately 14-foot-long F3 paddleboard not only seats one or two passengers, it has storage for fishing gear or personal items, and its aerodynamic hull has received a thumbs-up from Olympic TEAMUSA canoe and kayak competitor Ian Ross, who trains on Lake Lanier.
“You can paddle it like a kayak, stand up on it like a paddleboard,” said Hollis. “You can row it like a boat; you can put a sail on it. There’s nothing like it out there.”
Lund is a third-generation boat builder and engineer who designed the F3.
“It’s a two-part mold, and the whole process (to completion) takes a little over a week,” said Lund. The gel-coated craft has been designed not only to provide stability and ample space for sitting or standing, but its hull is designed to enhance aerodynamics and minimize drag.
“It’s all about the physics,” Lund said.
The F3 prototype had its first full outing Feb. 2 on Lake Lanier with both Ross and Hollis’ son Chase, 12, as navigators. Both were able to handle the board with ease, without spilling into the frigid winter water.
Hollis is now working on production logistics and getting the craft to market. After putting a photo and brief introduction about the F3 online, he said that he’s been inundated with interest.
“We’re going to start off as a custom builder,” said Hollis. With boards fabricated in a standard white resin, the F3 team can then design and personalize a hull wrap to customers’ specific needs for personal branding.
The F3 will remain a division of his Epic Performance Yachts as he rolls out the watercraft.
Hollis, Lund and Gibson continue to refine the board.
They’ve added airtight chambers for two fishing poles at the stern and are completing a proprietary outrigger paddle that will also serve as an anchor.
Seeing the demand, Hollis said, the board’s simplicity in design, labor, materials and its potential for volume sales has him both giddy with excitement and nervous at its potential. With the board’s perfect entrepreneurial mix of risk and reward, Hollis and the F3 team feel that they are poised to deliver a marketable winner.
Hollis nods toward the F3, explaining how it feels to see something created from nothing, from a substance that is no more than powder in his hands until combined with an engineer’s intellect.
“To see something come out of the mold,” Hollis said, then smiled as he shook his head.