March 20, 2024 | Alumni

WhiteWater founder Geoff Chutter made a splash in amusement industry after Rotman Commerce

By David Goldberg

A headshot of Geoff Chutter next to a photo of interconnected, twisty water slides.

Rotman Commerce alum Geoff Chutter credits his degree from U of T for his success. Photo of Chutter by Kemeisha McDonald.

Geoff Chutter (BCom 1976) doesn’t just build waterparks; he helps families create some of life’s most special moments.

Chutter is a Rotman Commerce (RC) alum, CEO and founder of WhiteWater West, the largest global designer of water parks and the biggest manufacturer of water park products, from the surf machines on the back of cruise ships to the water play structures found in renowned amusement parks like Atlantis and Legoland.

“I like to say we’re in the business of putting smiles on people’s faces,” says Chutter, who met with a small gathering of RC undergraduate students amidst the business school’s 100th anniversary celebrations.

And Chutter stresses the importance of connecting his own employees with the experiences they help create, so they can share that joy and bring it back to their desks.

“I say to all our employees, wherever you are in the world, if you want to take your family to a waterpark, it's on the company.”

Navigating uncharted waters

Earning his bachelor of commerce degree at U of T in 1976 as a member of New College helped Chutter navigate the uncharted waters of the waterpark industry, which was virtually non-existent when he founded WhiteWater in 1980.

“My BCom degree gave me that core knowledge and confidence to tackle entrepreneurial life. Kicking off your career at a place like the University of Toronto gives you a much better chance of success.”

Chutter opened his first waterslide park on three acres outside Penticton, B.C. Since then, WhiteWater has completed more than 5,000 projects, including almost 10,000 kilometres of waterslides and private builds for many celebrities, with offices in Vancouver, Dubai, Munich and Shanghai.

Several colourful water slides in a row photographed from the back.
WhiteWater West has built slides and water play structures around the world, including Wet'n'Wild on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia (pictured). Photo courtesy of WhiteWater West.

Fourth-year commerce student Summer Deng of Woodsworth College says meeting Chutter reinforced that her decision to study at U of T was the right one.

"Getting to talk with Mr. Chutter was an important opportunity. He’s a leader in a fascinating industry and it makes me excited to think about the creative side of entrepreneurship,” she says.

Second-year undergraduate student Matthew Wu of University College is majoring in finance and economics and says listening to advice from alumni like Chutter makes him less wary of taking risks in business when he has a U of T degree and network to draw from.

“Rotman alumni are doing great things, which makes me think I can do great things as well. It’s inspirational to see RC graduates like Mr. Chutter out in the world in such influential positions,” says Wu.

Geoff Chutter at a table with several students dressed in business attire, talking.
Amid Rotman Commerce’s 100th anniversary celebrations, Geoff Chutter offered his entrepreneurial advice to a group of undergraduate students. Photo by Kemeisha McDonald.

Chutter cherished his own time as an undergraduate at U of T. He laced up for the New College football team, served as vice-president of his residence council and produced the now defunct New Faces variety show.

"What you do outside the classroom is equally valuable,” says Chutter.

He hopes the next 100 years of Rotman Commerce will see even more experiential learning opportunities that motivate and inspire the next generation of budding entrepreneurs.

Giving back

Environmental stewardship and philanthropy are critical parts of Chutter’s makeup as founder and CEO of WhiteWater.

As part of the company’s mandate to become carbon neutral by 2040, one per cent of all corporate profits are directed to water-based NGOs that source fresh water in developing nations and clean up waterfronts.

On a personal level, Chutter just finished serving nine years on the board of directors for Covenant House Vancouver. During his tenure, the group raised millions of dollars, expanded services and erected two new buildings to support the city’s unhoused youth population.

Chutter also supports students and aspiring CEOs. Since winning Canada's EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2019, he attends the annual gala as a national judge and to cheer on his colleagues. He knows that his mentorship, his presence and telling his own story could trigger something important.

“Walk into any class at Rotman Commerce and there are potential entrepreneurs sitting in the audience, all they need is a spark,” he says.

“And never give up,” Chutter told the gathering of RC undergraduates. 

“My message to them was that you need some courage to grasp the opportunities that come your way, but more bravery is needed to stick the course during the inevitable hardships ahead. The rewards of building something of lasting value, of helping others use their talents, and of making an impact as an individual are worth it.”

Originally published by Arts & Science

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