At its first in-person conference since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Association of Aquatic Professionals maintained a substantial portion of its normal attendance and broke records in other areas.

Held Feb. 9-12 in St. Pete Beach, Fla., the event included a full educational slate, along with affiliated programs before and after, along with the Diversity in Aquatics Conference that took place concurrently.

It was attended by 497 professionals in aquatics and peripheral fields. Though it didn’t reach the highest attendance of nearly 700, registered in 2020, it was a pleasant surprise for the organization, said its Executive Director/CEO, Julie Hefter. Of attendees at the 2020 conference, approximately 100 came from the military, which currently can’t travel. So organizers knew the numbers would be lower.

“I was very impressed,” Hefter said. “We had a full conference. It was packed: The rooms were packed, the socials were packed.”

The trade show sold out, with 89 exhibits manned by 173 staffers.

At this year’s conference, AOAP offered 98 educational sessions – the most registered at the event. They also saw a healthy showing, Hefter said.

The fundraisers brought in approximately $8,000, all of which will be channeled into the organization’s scholarships, along with lifejacket and swim lesson grants.

The group is looking toward its next conference, which will co-locate with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. The two events will take place simultaneously, with registrants of either one able to receive access to the other for $100. The group Diversity in Aquatics will help with the Diversity and Inclusion track. At least some social and networking events will be shared and attended by both groups.

AOAP’s 12th Annual Conference and Exposition will take place Feb. 13-16, 2023 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Information and hotel registration can be accessed at