Justin La Fond
Pro Parks Attractions Group/Hawaiian Falls
Mansfield, Texas - U.S.A.
Featured in World Waterpark Magazine
, February 2023
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism from the University of New Orleans. From there I started a career in the restaurant industry where I served in managerial roles in New Orleans, LA and Fort Worth, TX. After three years in these roles, I was presented the opportunity to assist with the Food and Beverage operations with Hawaiian Falls Waterparks. This is where my aquatics career launched. I have now been with Hawaiian Falls for 12 years serving in many operational responsibilities and have now served 7 years as a Park Director at one of the waterparks in our portfolio.
WHAT CERTIFICATION OR LICENSING DO YOU HAVE?
I am a PHTA Certified Pool Operator, Starguard Elite Lifeguard Instructor and CPR/First Aid certified.
WHAT HONORS, AWARDS OR SPECIAL RECOGNITION HAVE YOU ACHIEVED?
I have the honor of serving as vice chair of the Technology Committee for WWA
WHAT MADE YOU GO IN TO THIS FIELD?
As a child, I always loved going to waterparks. It was my favorite summer activity. When I was presented with the opportunity to work at my first waterpark, I couldn’t pass it up. I love the people I work with. I now look forward to bringing families together every summer and providing them with the same experience that I anticipated as a child.
WHAT ASPECT OF THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY DO YOU LIKE BEST?
I relish many things about working in the aquatic industry. One of the most fulfilling aspects is to be able to mentor and teach young adults as they launch into the workforce. For many, this is their first job and it’s exciting to see them grow and develop their skills. Many of these ambassadors return each year and advance to department supervisors. It’s an honor to work alongside these talented individuals.
WHO HAS MOST INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
My dad taught me at a young age the significance of a solid work ethic. He was one of the hardest workers I saw growing up. He managed to balance his professional growth and family life with grace and was always challenging me to be the greatest I could be. I’ll always be thankful for his wisdom and support.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE IN YOUR WATERPARK CAREER?
The greatest challenge for me came in my first season as a Park Director. One day during the season we had two serious aquatic-related emergencies occur. Thankfully both events resulted in a positive outcome. The biggest challenge presented itself in the days to follow. Our team was both mentally and physically exhausted. I realized we needed to reset and refresh to the enthusiastic and motivated team we previously were. It was during these difficult days that my leadership skills were tested and sharpened.
HOW DO YOU KEEP FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?
I find motivation in watching others grow. I can remember a summer when the temps were staying above 100 degrees for days on end. Our team was getting fatigued and burned out (literally!). I witnessed one of my team leaders gathering the lifeguards together for a pow wow. This individual was someone I had been grooming and mentoring for the leadership role for a few years. He came up with the idea to have handheld fans for each of the guards to take with them on stand to keep cool. Watching him as he supported the team during such a low moment was truly inspiring.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN WORKING IN THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY?
Buckle Up! It is a ride. Prepare yourself to put in the hard work and long days knowing that the result will create lasting memories. Remember to be patient with yourself, empathetic to others and flexible to the constant change that the industry brings. Lastly, I would encourage you to plug into WWA and create as many connections as you can.
WHAT BOOKS OR PUBLICATIONS DO YOU RELY ON MOST FOR INSPIRATION OR MOTIVATION?
I find motivation by the stories and truths writ- ten in the Bible. I have also found inspiration in some of my favorite books, Rich Dad Poor Dad
by Robert Kiyosaki, How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie and Good to Great
by Jim Collins.
WHAT CAREER OR BUSINESS WOULD YOU CONSIDER IF YOU WERE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN?
If I weren’t in the aquatics Industry, I would like to go into Orthopedic and Sports Medicine. I’ve always enjoyed following sports and would be fascinated to learn how to treat sports-related injuries.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE WWA?
Our company has been a member of WWA for many years. A couple of years ago I was asked to join the Technology Committee and I was instantly hooked. I love brainstorming ways to innovate and advance the industry. Additionally, for the past two years I have had the privilege to assist in leading an educational session at the WWA show.
WHAT IS SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOU THAT FEW KNOW OR WOULD GUESS?
I have visited 26 of the 30 Major League ballparks in the country. It was something my dad started with me when I was young and is now on my bucket list to complete.