ack in high school, Doug Whiteaker was already building pools. But he really wanted to be building healthy teeth and gums, until a trip to Europe changed his mind.

“I saw a lot of neat pools there and decided to stay in the industry,” he says. He even brought back some of the European concepts, such as zero-depth, and incorporated them into his own designs.

Whiteaker, now principal in charge of Water Technology Inc. in Beaver Dam, Wis., was already building commercial pools in high school and college. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he had introduced his father, Richard, to a friend’s father, who was trying to get into the commercial pool business. Together, the two dads started building pools.

In 1983, Richard Whiteaker formed Water Technology with brothers Chuck and Randy Neuman. By then, son Doug had graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a dual degree in biochemistry and physiology, and had traded his dental plans for pool blueprints.

As a competitive swimmer since age 6, Whiteaker is familiar with various pool systems and quality — and how important the two are to the swimming experience.

“It’s been a very important aspect for me to have good water and air quality,” he says, noting that athletes who swim 15,000 yards a day or spend eight hours a day in the water need a better quality of life than some of the pool conditions he’s seen.

Today, the 51-year-old focuses on creating multifaceted facilities that appeal to a broad range of users. And he travels to trade shows and conferences, giving seminars that spread the word about these types of facilities.

“I have a holistic approach to things that not only function well from a mechanical aspect, but also a unique design that provides multiplicity in different water temperatures,” Whiteaker says. For example, a learn-to-swim pool can be converted into a wellness pool for morning exercise classes, set at a temperature that can help people in rehabilitation practice exercises.

But regardless of how a pool is used, he says it’s important for people from all parts of the industry to remember that aquatics is about more than water.

“It’s a very heartfelt experience when I see people in the wellness pools. They can barely walk or have severe handicaps. They get in, and they can increase their flexibility, muscle tone and … have a much better quality of life.” — Rin-rin Yu