This morning, the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, co-located with Deck Expo (PSP/Deck Expo), kicked off its main conference education with keynotes by two icons in the aquatics industry: Dr. Wallace "J" Nichols and Rowdy Gaines. The keynote presentations were co-sponsored by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) and Watershape University.
Pool & Spa Professional (P&S Pro) sat down with both speakers to hear first-hand what it meant for them to address the PSP/Deck Expo audience and what they hoped the audience took away from their presentations.
Gaines, who is often referred to as “Swimming’s Greatest Ambassador,” broke 11 world records leading up to 1980. After a brief hiatus, Gaines returned to the water and made the U.S. team for the Olympic Games in 1984. There, he won an individual gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and anchored the gold-medal winning teams for the 400-meter freestyle relay and the 400-meter medley relay. Despite being inflicted with a life-threatening neurological disorder at the age of 31, Gaines made a comeback to his sport and was the oldest swimmer to qualify for the 1996 Olympic Trials. He decided not to compete, but instead became the swimming commentator for NBC. Gaines is a regular television commentator on NBC and NBC Sports for swimming and sporting events.
P&S PRO: Why were you excited to address the PSP/Deck Expo Audience?
GAINES: This is an audience that I have become more familiar with since I started with the PHTA 10 months ago. Working with the PHTA has opened a whole new world to reach out to and say, ‘you can make a difference.’
P&S PRO: What do you hope the audience takes away from your talk?
GAINES: I hope it’s the knowledge that drowning is an epidemic in our country. If you look at the stats, they're staggering. Downing is the leading cause of unintentional death in children four and under and the second leading cause of death in children five to 14. The beautiful thing is the fact that we’ve found the cure to drowning—swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning by almost 90%. You could really help solve this dilemma we have by creating more swimmers. There is a bit of the method to the madness. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it's also something that creates more business. When you create more swimmers, you create more swimming pools. It's just that simple.
P&S PRO: Can you tell us more about how pool and spa professionals can make this messaging a part of their business model?
GAINES: Every company has a philanthropic mission, and it’s my feeling that a company’s mission should be close to their industry. For this industry that closeness revolves around water. Water is part of the fabric of who we are as an industry. I think a lot of it is giving to a cause—whether it's our cause called Step Into Swim, or another charitable initiative that’s focused on saving lives, that should be really part of a company’s financial mission when it comes to charity.
It’s also about getting involved with the families you build pools for on the residential side and providing information about what they can do to keep their children safe. We've come up with ways to do that that we are going to break out in 2022 for builders to say, “we built your pool, but we don't want to leave it here, we want to help keep your family having fun in and around water.” In my opinion, builders have a responsibility to do that.
Called a “Keeper of the Sea" by GQ Magazine, Dr. Nichols is an entrepreneurial scientist, renown marine biologist, wild water advocate, and bestselling author. His current focus is on what he refers to as Blue Mind, a powerful new universal story of water. This story accurately describes the physical, ecological, economic, cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical, and social benefits of healthy oceans and waterways. By connecting neuroscientists and psychologists with aquatic experts and artists to ask and answer exciting, new questions his work is transforming many sectors, including health and wellness, education and parenting, arts, architecture and design, real estate and urban planning, travel and leisure, and sports and recreation.
“The Earth is covered in more than 70% water,” said Nichols. “Our connection to it is intrinsic. We feel better – mentally and spiritually – when we’re around bodies of water. This industry knows even small watershapes, like pools and spas, offer incredible benefits. Humans are ‘heart-wired’ to love water – and the pros in the pool industry are helping their clients gain safe and healthy access to it.”
P&S PRO: What is unique about the PSP/Deck Expo audience?
NICHOLS: I really love speaking to water people—people who’ve spent lots of time near or in water because we get started with a higher level of conversation. They already kind of get it intuitively but then we can kind of dig into the science and the practice related to blue mind. That's true always but particularly after the year and a half we've all had I think the message is more important than ever and there are a lot of people who've experienced what I refer to as red mind or gray mind from stress and burnout.
P&S PRO: Why is the concept of “blue mind” more important than ever?
NICHOLS: A lot of people need to know that pools and spas and spending time outside are the best medicine. The research is clear that the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, your team and your community is to make sure that people have the basic skills to be in the water. The pool and boating industries saw upticks in demand over the pandemic because people intuitively knew that they needed to have more blue mind experiences. I think that will continue and then health professionals will get on board and doctors will start prescribing aquatic activities. This is already happening in the UK and other places in Europe.
P&S PRO: How can industry professionals incorporate the “blue mind” concept into their business?
NICHOLS: I think this group probably understands blue mind intuitively already, but they may not have updated their sales-related talking points to reflect the latest research. On these ideas they probably say, “yeah, I know that personally blue mind is real, I feel it.” They haven't interpreted it in their day-to-day work life. And that's really one of the big things that I hope will be a takeaway—that the science is here. You can talk about the feelings around being in the water with a lot of confidence and if you're leaving it out, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.