Name: Keanu Santana
Job: Water slide tester and operations supervisor, Wet’n’Wild Hawaii
Start: Santana grew up in Waianae and graduated from Waianae High School in 2014. “What I love about the school is that it’s located right next to the ocean,” he says with a grin.
He started working at Wet’n’Wild soon after graduation. “What inspired me to work for this company was my love of the water and having the ability to help others.”
He quickly worked his way up to operations supervisor, and now manages four departments: aquatics, first aid, security and housekeeping.
What It Takes: “Being a water slide tester is something we learn on the job. Testing water slides can be super fun, especially for those who are adrenaline junkies. The job becomes stressful when slides need fixing or become closed. Having a ride close is not good at all because you want to make sure your guests are satisfied and getting their money’s worth.
“We start with certifying for the lifeguard process: training for a three-day course that’s internationally accredited by Ellis and Associates. Wet’n’Wild Hawaii has received an ‘exceeds expectations’ on its annual lifeguard audit from E&A. The aquatics staff must receive top marks in each category with little room for error to get an overall ‘exceeds expectations.’
“Once we pass first-aid and CPR courses, along with customer service training and preventatives, we do internal training for rules, tube types, dispatch rates and inflation. Each ride has specific guidelines by the manufacturer that we must follow in order to ensure safety.”
Ride Research: What some of us might call a raft, Wet’n’Wild calls a tube. “The Shaka ride used to be a double tube, with two people facing each other,” Santana says. “The tubes were poorly designed and we weren’t getting good use out of them. After a lot of research, we changed it to single-rider tubes, which are lighter and cause less wear and tear. We did over 100 test rides with a wide variety of employees and documented what happened on each ride. When we looked at the log, we could see which tube worked best and then switched.”
Misconceptions: “The biggest misconception is that the public just comes in and the rides are in place and open every day. But there are so many inspections and manuals to follow, and also a lot of maintenance.
“Another thing people may not understand is why our lines are long. Our dispatch rates on each ride are specified by the manufacturer and we have to follow their rules. There are also height restrictions for safety purposes.”
Toughest Day: “The day we had a power outage, causing all the water slides to turn off. As soon as we got the power back on, I had to make sure all the slides were test-ridden before allowing guests back on.”
Best Day: “Enjoying all the different types of water slides on the market. Waimea Whirl is one of our newest attractions, and my team and I had to test-ride the slide 100 times before opening it up to our guests. That was a fun day!”
Pay Range: “Entry level pay is up to $14/hour.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.