The Wild World of Wibit
December 16, 2015
Adventures in Programming
Aquatics and Safety Coordinator
Weber State University
With the popularity of shows such as Wipeout and American Ninja Warrior, inflatable obstacles have become a popular programming option for many universities across the country. Campus Recreation departments are always looking for new programming ideas to implement and the Wibit provides a unique program that gives students an experience similar to what they are watching on television.
What is a Wibit? To define it simply would be to say that Wibit is not a product, but rather a company. The product Wibit manufactures is an inflatable obstacle course for use in aquatic programming. When a programmer sees Wibit, they see a world of excitement and possibility. When a Risk Manager sees Wibit, they run the other direction. At least, this was the experience of Weber State University when Campus Recreation purchased a Wibit obstacle course.
In the fall of 2013 the Campus Recreation department at Weber State University opened a newly renovated building with an expansion and new equipment. Because these renovations didn’t include the pool, the Aquatics Coordinator at the time was tasked with finding a new, fun program to implement in the pool. She came up with Wibit. Another local community pool already had one of these courses and had success in implementing it, so with some research and some student input, the department decided to buy one. However, once the Wibit arrived, the implementation was not as easy as taking it out of the box, inflating it, and throwing it in the pool. In the excitement of buying the Wibit, Campus Recreation forgot to take one critical step—convincing our stakeholders it was feasible.
Our facility at Weber State is unique in the fact that, other than our new expansion, our facility is not owned by us. Much of our programming space actually belongs to an academic department, including the pool. So when the Wibit was delivered to the pool deck, the first person to see it was the academic facility coordinator. She was not excited. What ensued was a battle with the academic department and university risk management in order to prove that we could safely implement this programming. In the end, a compromise was made and Wibit Nights are a popular program in our facility. However the journey to implementation was not easy. We learned many lessons along the way and will continue to learn as we move forward. Here are the four biggest lessons we learned in our process.
1. Wibit can work for almost any Aquatic Facility
Weber State University has a six lane, 25 yard pool. The minimum depth is four feet and the maximum depth is eight feet. It is primarily a lap swimming pool, and many programmers would say our ability to run programs is quite limited. However, there are many things we can still do in our pool. For instance, we have run programs such as SUP Yoga, Dive-In Movies, Triathlons, and of course, the Wibit.
The great thing about Wibit is that different elements of the obstacle course are rated for different pool depths. So if your pool is very shallow, you can purchase only shallow elements. Although they have “pre-set” courses, you can also buy pieces individually, as they have a universal set-up system so any two pieces can attach to each other. The key to getting the right pieces for your pool is to do your research. It is also important to look into what you will need to secure the Wibit to the walls. The company provides ropes that must be used to secure the Wibit, but it is up to you to find the best way to attach those ropes to the wall, whether you rig them to lane line hooks in the wall, diving blocks, or some other structure.
2. Don’t leave your stakeholders out of the decision-making process
In our case, our two biggest stakeholders were the academic facility coordinator and our university risk officer. Neither of these stakeholders are programmers, so it took a lot of convincing on our part to prove we weren’t out of our minds, especially since we failed to consult them before we bought our Wibit.
It is especially important to come up with a risk management plan to present to your organization’s Risk Officer, with detailed explanations of how you are going to minimize any risks of injury that are associated with using the Wibit. Some information to include: how many lifeguards you will have on shift, how many participants can be on the Wibit at one time, and rules such as no jumping, no diving, and no sliding face first.
3. Training, Training, Training!
Staff training is critical to successful implementation of the Wibit. When I started my position in July 2015, only two of my staff members knew how to set up the Wibit and guard for it. I didn’t even know how to set it up, so I could not effectively train my staff until I had been trained. In order to remedy the lack of training, these two lifeguards lead an in-service to train everyone how to set up the Wibit and important things to remember about guarding a Wibit event.
An in-service training is a great way to train all your staff at once and to give refresher training, but when new staff is hired, you have to do it all over again. Some facilities use manuals or have shadow shifts for that initial training. At Weber State we are creating an electronic training manual that will include pictures and videos on the set-up. This will become a part of new employee orientation and staff members will have to take a quiz on the Wibit before they guard a Wibit event.
4. Storage and Maintenance are necessities
Storage and Maintenance have turned out to be our biggest issues since implementing our Wibit. Being a small pool intended primarily for lap swimming, we do not have a lot of storage space in our facility for large equipment. The Campus Recreation department has one small storage closet on the pool deck. Any other storage space is across the building. It is extremely important to have adequate storage space for the Wibit. Our Wibit has a few large, heavy pieces and were previously stacked in a corner blocking a door. Although they fit in our storage closet, they don’t leave a lot of walking room or storage space for other equipment.
Be sure to analyze your storage options before purchasing your Wibit. In addition, it is important to make sure the Wibit is properly stored. It is critical that all pieces be rinsed off and left to dry completely before putting them away. Rinsing them minimizes chlorine residue and drying completely prevents mold.
Along with maintenance of the actual Wibit, we also ran into some issues with maintaining the accessories. The Wibit comes with a pump to inflate and deflate the pieces, but when inflating five large pieces, it overheats and burns out. My first experience with the Wibit at Weber State was helping the lifeguards inflate using hand pumps because both of our pumps had overheated. In order to overcome this obstacle, we bought another pump and we now inflate the pieces throughout the day before the event, instead of trying to do everything the hour before the event.
Overall, implementing the Wibit at our facility has been great for our Campus Recreation Department. At a school where most students commute and don’t even know we have a swimming pool, it has helped bring students into our facility to learn about all the programming we offer. It has created buzz on campus about our facility and we’ve had other organizations ask to rent our Wibit.
Although we chose to purchase a Wibit, there are a lot of options out there for unique aquatics programming. The things that Weber State learned through implementing the Wibit can be applied to implementing a wide variety of programming from Battleship, to SUP Yoga, to Dive-In Movies. It is important to remember that despite any set-backs you may have, any program can be successful with proper planning.