From Surf to Safety: A Quick History with the CEO



Here at Water Safety Products, Inc. we love to get to know our customers! So, as one of our first posts to our WSP Lifeguard Blog, we want to give you a little background information about who we are, and where we come from, as well as a chance to get to know the woman that started it all, Paula Panton. Enjoy 🙂


What is Water Safety Products, Inc?

We are a leading supplier of lifeguard uniforms, swimsuits, facility supplies, and aquatic rescue equipment. We are currently introducing other new product categories, including Valustair thermoplastic staircases and Fiberplate stair tread covers, for retrofitting and new constructions.  We have also recently joined the Learn to Swim and commercial dive markets as a supplier.


What differentiates you from the competition?

One major difference is that we manufacture our own swimsuits, both men’s and women’s. We pick/buy the fabric, cut the fabric, and sew it here in the USA. We use only the highest quality fabrics for the harsh conditions associated with lifeguarding. We are also continuously listening to our customers to ensure that we are always meeting their needs in creating new products, which has resulted in our receipt of multiple awards for new products and leadership over the years.


How long have you been doing this?

We’ve been manufacturing bathing suits since the early 80’s; however, in 1987 we began to change our focus to professional uniform swimsuits for lifeguards.


So what kind of suits were you producing previous to Water Safety Products?

In 1980 we were manufacturing junior swim wear for the surfing and specialty markets under the name Sea Oats Swimwear. Around 1987 customers from Wet ’n’ Wild of Orlando, Florida visited our booth at Surf Expo and asked if we could make a ladies’ suit for their lifeguards that would not be too revealing or see-through, and would hold up in the harsh environment in which the lifeguards work for forty hours a week.


So how did the women’s bathing suits turn out?

After much fabric research and design work, we had a winner for the lifeguard market! They loved the product, we exceeded the standard, and we realized we had met a need and stumbled upon a new niche in swimwear and apparel.


So what happened after your success with the Wet ’n’ Wild swimsuits?

Word of mouth spread quickly through the waterpark/pool market about our ladies’ suits. We very quickly realized we needed to make a high quality men’s uniform trunk to match the ladies’ suits which then led to a women’s lifeguard board short later on. The men’s and ladies’ apparel would unite the lifeguards as a team.  A great concept and a new company were born …the new company’s name would be Water Safety Products, Inc.

We immediately built strong relationships within the waterpark community, and I liked this new niche market, particularly the people we were dealing with.  So we pressed on and never looked back.


Without going into full detail over the last 25 years, what would you say have been the highlights since 1989?

The highlights of working in the aquatic/lifeguard industry include most importantly the many lifelong friends and relationships we developed along the way.  We all share the same commitment — the goal of helping lifeguards save lives around the world. Other highlights include every safety school and trade event, and the many visits to our customers’ facilities.


What were your most memorable moments?

I believe my most memorable moment was being inducted into the World Waterpark Association Hall of Fame. Water Safety Products has also won multiple awards, all memorable, including the IAAPA Impact Award in 1999.

It’s hard not to mention our family waterpark trips.  For many years we spent our summers driving across the USA and Canada, visiting our accounts and meeting new ones. The first year we went to 52 aquatic facilities/waterparks in one summer. We were very enthusiastic (laugh).


What is your favorite water park?

All the ones who buy from us! Ahah, I’m just teasing. I love all of the waterparks I have ever had the chance to visit, and the ones I have not been to I am sure I would love as well. Waterparkin’ is just great family fun!


What are some challenges you’ve faced along the way?

Raising three kids and running a business (laugh). We really started from the bottom and it was challenging getting the financial backing as the company grew, and we grew very quickly. To wrap it up we had to take some big risks, but we were at the right place at the right time and we went for it!


Any final words for our new blog followers?

Thank you for choosing to follow us!  We truly appreciate it. And remember:  Good quality, good service, fairness, and respect make up a winning formula for a successful business.


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