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Big splash: The world’s largest designer of water parks

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Media captionGeoff Chutter says that once hiring personnel he appears to be like for positivity moderately than talents.

In 1980 Geoff Chutter discovered himself “mortgaged to the underside of the nostrils”, and the landlord of a brand spanking new water park.

The then 28-year-old had no earlier revel in of operating on this planet of massive water slides and swimming swimming pools, however he concept it might be extra a laugh than proceeding to paintings as an accountant. So he determined to construct his personal.

Geoff had in the past spent 5 years hired through the auditing company KPMG Canada, till someday he got here around the nation’s first water park within the western province of British Columbia.

He was once despatched there on a piece project, and he was once in an instant intrigued. “It had some basic component that I thought was hugely fun,” says Geoff.

“How good would it be to spend your life putting smiles on families’ faces?”

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So, impressed, he determined to surrender the day process, take a jump of religion, and open Canada’s 2d water park. Joining with a trade spouse, he discovered 18 acres of land within the town of Penticton, British Columbia, and built one.

Fast ahead 40 years, and Geoff’s trade – Whitewater West – is lately the world’s largest designer and producer of water parks.

When he opened that first park again in 1980, Geoff says it was once “very much house is on the line, savings on the line – modest as they were”. He provides: “In reflection, the only thing more naïve than myself was the Royal Bank of Canada [who gave us the money].”

At the time, the water parks trade was once in its infancy, with the primary trendy appeal opening in Florida in 1977. So Geoff could not merely purchase in slides, and even practice some already drawn up plans. Instead he needed to design and construct his park from scratch, operating with an engineering company to create the entirety.

During the park’s inaugural summer time, one thing fortuitous took place. “Four [separate] fellows came by and said ‘Gee, I’d like to do that in my home town. How’d you do it?'” he says.

Geoff ended up signing contracts to construct 4 new parks, 3 in Canada and one in Washington State, in america.

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Launching his new endeavour he had soothed his pressure with the concept that, if the project failed miserably, he at all times had accounting to fall again on.

But driving that first wave of luck, he says that he has “frankly never looking back”.

Three years after his park opened, he offered it, divesting utterly from park possession and operations, to as a substitute center of attention on waterslide and pool design, engineering, production, and supply.

Today, Whitewater has 600 workers all over the world, and initiatives throughout six continents, from Russia to India, Brazil to america, and Australia to South Africa.

With annual gross sales of $200m (£116m), the company works with everybody from resorts, to amusement park behemoths like Disney, for whom it designed the huge Typhoon Lagoon wave pool in Orlando, Florida.

“We’re the big boys in the industry – we’re the gorillas in the living room, for sure,” says Geoff.

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The water parks trade has boomed over the many years, with 30.nine million visiting the highest 20 water parks on this planet on my own in 2018, consistent with sector-wide figures. To attempt to keep forward of the curve in an trade at all times looking for larger thrills and contemporary stories, Geoff says that the corporate specializes in innovation.

Teams of designers, architects and engineers paintings at its headquarters in Vancouver, along artists and sculptors, to create the following most well liked water slides, and different aqueous points of interest.

While some of Whitewater’s North American competitors have now not expanded out of doors of america and Canada, Geoff says that he was once at all times prepared to construct a really international presence.

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He credit the time he spent in France as a young person – he attended the American School of Paris from 1966 to 1969 – with making him see the arena “an awful lot smaller”, and that “it’s your oyster”. So he was once at all times prepared to discover the probabilities of increasing the corporate international.

“We saw our competition – North American-based – afraid to venture out,” he says. “So we went to Asia, we went to Europe.”

On events, he says the corporate was once warned through sceptics that water parks simply would not paintings in some nations. In Japan, as an example, the place Whitewater opened its first out of the country challenge in 1988, there have been issues that Japanese women folk can be too fearful about solar publicity to embody a water park.

“Yet to this day our number one attendance day was 68,000 in a park in Tokyo, completely blowing up that theory,” he says.

The trade was once additionally instructed that modesty issues would get in the best way of any luck within the Middle East, however Geoff says that women-only occasions at a park in Dubai are a success.

“A lot of cultures we’ve gone into, we’ve been told ‘Nice idea, but you’re going to fail there’,” says Geoff. “[Yet], those components of water, sun, family, friends – they’re very powerful when they’re together.”

The company now has regional workplaces in Barcelona, Dubai, and Shanghai, and production operations in Turkey, the Philippines and Canada.

Dave Sangree, provide of consulting company Hotel and Leisure Advisors, says that Geoff’s stewardship of Whitewater has been “impressive”.

Turning his consideration to the broader water park trade, Mr Sangree says that it’s anticipated to simply keep growing, particularly in Africa and portions of Asia the place the marketplace isn’t totally advanced.

“You have a growing middle-class worldwide, people love to spend time with their children worldwide, and water parks are certainly a fun alternative,” provides Mr Sangree.

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Back at Whitewater’s headquarters, Geoff is especially thinking about growing and development surf swimming pools.

“I think it’s going to be huge fun to be able to say, surf in Saskatoon, surf in Toronto, and have world-class waves [miles from the ocean],” he says.

It does sound extra stress-free than being an accountant.

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