Remember when you were 25? For me, it was nearly (cough) 25 years ago. I was working as a bartender to support a novel writing habit, and I couldn’t wait to take my rightful place as a Great American Author. It felt as if the rest of my life was spread out in front of me like a field of wildflowers, and I was rushing forward straight into all of that color.

Looking back on it now, it’s embarrassing to think how naïve and oddly rigid my thinking was at the time. (For example, when I was 25 I believed that all plastic should be outlawed, period. And I would not set foot into Ralph’s, a large supermarket chain, because I wanted to save the act of shopping there until I was married.)

Yet while my ideas were admittedly excessive, they all came from a deep commitment to a value system that I still embrace, though with a bit more realism today.

On this, Aquatics International’s 25th anniversary, I can’t help but think back to my own unshakable beliefs in the ideals I held close, and compare that conviction to what I see in this wonderful industry. Aquatics professionals have a profound passion for what they do, and this true enthusiasm — a trait that often fades with age — has stood the test of time for individual members of the field as well as the industry overall. 

Back in 1988 when the first issue of Aquatics (as it was then called) rolled off the press, the whole field was quite different. A new industry segment incorporating wave rides and other theme park elements was just beginning to take shape. Recreational water illnesses, while no doubt in existence, hadn’t yet hit the mainstream press. And safety issues, from diving to entrapment to shallow-water blackout, were not understood with the depth and clarity that they are today.

When our staff began thinking about everything that’s changed, it sparked the idea for this issue: a historical look at the trends that shaped aquatics over the past quarter century. We divided each segment of the industry into a separate story, so that there are pieces on design, safety, health, lifeguarding and RWIs. In addition, we reached out to well-known members in every field to get first person accounts of their time in the industry. These testimonials are my favorite parts of this edition because they add a powerful human component that brings all the facts and figures to life. 

On a final note, the staff at Aquatics International would like to thank our readers for helping us grow throughout the years and for providing the opportunity to write about such a crucial and vibrant industry.