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Rising Stars: Meet Mike Winkles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Winkles.

Mike, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Born and raised in Jacksonville, certified to scuba dive at 12, was part of the beginning of Mandarin High Schools (Award Winning– Mandarin High School) winning “reef ball” program. While in college at FCCJ (now FSCJ) I began a part time job at Meridian Divers in Mandarin (now closed) and went from filling dive tanks to becoming a scuba instructor. I began working again with Mandarin High School on the Reef Ball Project, teaching students to dive and doing dive trips to the springs with their Marine Science classes. From this, I was offered a job in Crystal River Florida taking schools from across the country swimming with manatees and in springs as part of a field trip program. I did this for most of my 20s. I began videoing these field trips and became proficient at underwater video and photos. Family obligations brought me back to Jax to run the family company but social media “influencing” has grown and I grew with it in my free time. In 2019 I began working with a Jacksonville-based paddleboard company, iRocker Sup, for media and content creation. Growing and learning with them I now work with dive companies like Aqualung/OMER, paddle companies like iRocker & Nacqua Lights, the GoPro camera company on content and camera product research, and smaller apparel & product companies. I’ve traveled around the state working with county tourism divisions, specifically Palm Beaches County for influencer marketing (social media and news interviews, and even nominated for an upcoming “influencer award” from last year’s work with the Palm Beach programs.) I enjoy volunteering and working with Springs Protection groups like Florida Springs Council and Florida Springs Institute, creating content and guest speaking and conferences.) I work frequently with LoveFL, the marketing company contracted by Visit Florida, our state’s tourism marketing department.

Traveling for these media productions keeps me busy, visiting Bahama Islands for Ocean content, or the Yucatan Peninsula for Cenote diving content, and all-around Florida for product and tourism content creation.

Also very active in my church, Mandarin Presbyterian, and have been a Deacon there for 5 years.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The move back to Jax was tough, leaving my house, relationships and teaching job, and missing the field trip work with schools was difficult, but it brought me back home to family. Viewing social media as a “business” and investing time in it like its work can be overwhelming. Many friends and family initially viewed me as someone who can get off social media, but I worked at it like a job That mindset made social media not an escape from work, but additional work, and that takes a toll sometimes. But it’s paid off.

Covid travel and tourism slowed things down but it was manageable.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Previously I was known for underwater photography. Lately, I’m known for underwater video (TikTok and reels and have been very productive,) specifically manatees (which I used to teach about) and a single viral Looks like id Double used the word “Viral” in the sentence video of Goliath Grouper that was a hired project for Palm Beaches Florida that went viral, receiving over 4 million views in its first day after being posted as an influencer post for diving in Jupiter, FL. I’ve recently signed on with Warner Bros Discovery to have my work featured on Discovery, Animal Planet and Science Channel. Currently what I’m proud of is still pretty simple, the fact that my work has companies interested in me creating for them, and that companies seeking “influencer marking,” feel that having me recommending places/products will be successful for their growth.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
Having my work create awareness, For products I want my work to draw attention from customers for those businesses. For places, I want to lead potential visitors to want to enjoy what those areas have to offer. And through all this, I was to be respectful of the amazing environment we have in our state, and help to create a love for it while also protecting it. That can be tough, but I think we can enjoy our environment responsibly if we do it right.

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1 Comment

  1. Shirley

    June 21, 2022 at 1:30 pm

    Congratulations Mike great job awesome work

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