How a Chance Encounter Transformed WhiteWater into the ‘Water Park Company’

You may have heard Geoff Chutter, our CEO, relay WhiteWater’s origin story before. How it all started when Geoff opened his own water park in Penticton in 1980. Unable to find a water slide supplier, he decided to build his own slides, which then led him to supply other parks also looking for rides. The rest, as they say, is history. And while that is the tale of how WhiteWater got its start, it doesn’t quite paint the full picture.

Along the way, WhiteWater has merged with or acquired key companies that would allow it to offer all the products a water park would need. One of those crucial mergers, which would help shape the company you see today, was with Barr + Wray, a wave manufacturer out of Glasgow, Scotland. It’s a union that might not have happened at all, except for a comment made in passing over 30 years ago.

Entering the MENA Region

The year is 1987 and business is booming for WhiteWater throughout North America and Asia. The Middle East is an emerging region with new water parks beginning development. One of these parks is Crazy Water Aqua Park in Cairo, Egypt, who were looking for a water slide manufacturer to supply their park. Reaching out to Geoff, they arranged to meet in Cairo in a few weeks’ time.

While Geoff was making his travel arrangements, Andrew Wray, Barr + Wray’s President, was discussing wave equipment with Crazy Water. Andrew, like Geoff, is also a pioneer of the water park’s industry. After graduating from the University of Glasgow in Mechanical Engineering in 1976, Andrew began working for his father at Barr + Wray, a manufacturer of pumps, water treatment, and filtration systems. In the mid-1980s, Andrew used his mechanical engineering background to design and perfect wave generating equipment and started the North America office for Barr + Wray, located in Vancouver.

Andrew spent three days negotiating with Crazy Water, and after a successful deal, spent his last day in Egypt exploring the country. After playing tourist and enjoying the pyramids, Andrew met with the owners of Crazy Water for a final meal before flying back to Canada. While at dinner, the owners asked Andrew, “do you know Mr. Chutter? He is also from Vancouver and coming to see us in two weeks to discuss the water slides.” Surprised to hear that there was another manufacturer in the amusements industry nearby, Andrew made a mental note to learn more about this Mr. Chutter while Geoff secured his own respective deal, selling two Giant Slides, a Speed Slide, Freefall, two AquaTube body slides, two Enclosed drop slides, and complex of Kids’ Slides to Crazy Water.

Adding Waves to the Portfolio

After returning from Egypt, Andrew reached out to Geoff to discuss the possibility of the two companies coming together. “Waves and water slides are like peanut butter and jelly,” Andrew would later say. “I knew our two companies didn’t compete directly with each other and thought it would be a smart business opportunity if the two guys from Vancouver decided to work together.”

Geoff agreed and the two organizations signed a deal in October of 1987, merging Barr + Wray with WhiteWater and adding wave equipment to the company’s portfolio. The announcement was made in November of the following year at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, in one of the most exciting reveals the company has seen—the two companies ceremoniously dropped the wall separating the back-to-back booths to unveil that the two organizations had merged under the WhiteWater brand.

Reflecting on 40 Years

A simple question, asked in passing, was the impetus that started it all, and 19 years after the merger, WhiteWater would cement its commitment to the region by opening an office in Dubai in 2006. Although waves were the first of many additions to the company’s portfolio, it sparked a real hunger to grow and develop WhiteWater’s capabilities.

Now, with 40 years in the business, WhiteWater has increased its global reach with installations in over 90 countries around the world. With offices spread over three different continents to better serve their clients in their time zone and with multiple product lines, WhiteWater has acquired and licensed several different products over the years to become a one-stop-shop for everything a water park needs.

2021 is an exciting year for WhiteWater as it celebrates its 40th anniversary and focuses on making the commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2040.

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Cassidy Newman