25 Years of Hippo Leisure
It’s fair to say that Hippo Leisure has seen its fair share of change; that’s what 25 years in the water play industry will do. But the story of its origins, and development into the UK’s sole manufacturer of water play products offer a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of a brand that has brought smiles to so many…
Hippo Leisure was formed some 25 years ago (1997) in West Sussex by Andy Taylor who developed the business into what it is today. Having left the water treatment company Biwater three years prior, Andy set up solo as Ocean Wave Engineering and offered fault-finding and problem-solving services to the leisure industry. During his time at Biwater Andy started to work with polyurethanes and elastomers as a part of the Flowrider development. This is what ignited his pursuit of these materials and led him into the world of water play.
Ocean Wave Engineering provided safety pads and solutions to existing American water play features that needed repairs. Andy worked with Andrew Wickham (the MD of Hippo Marine) and provided the elastomer coating technology that Hippo Leisure still uses today to make their specialist products. This unique system meant Hippo could apply safety padding solutions to giant floating animals and sea creatures found in water parks across the world as well as develop its own products for the water play industry.
The brand organically progressed as the customer base and demand increased until the business required a larger facility. It made sense to expand, and so in 2001, it was time to leave Sussex and relocate both Hippo Leisure and Hippo Marine to Saltash.
From Floatables to Flumes…
Hippo Leisure’s first water play product was its lily pad walkways and floatables range. The first lily pad walkway was installed at Waterworld in Stoke in 2001, with floatables following shortly after.
Product development continued and Hippo’s trademark feature – the interactive waterfall was born with the first being installed at Woodford Leisure Centre in Hull in 2008. This feature remains one of our most popular products to date. Its unique design means that it can be expanded to create water factories with endless possibilities for big and small splash play suitable for children of all age and ability groups.
To add to the long list of popular features, the first of many Hippo Leisure flumes was installed at Splashpoint Leisure Centre, Worthing in 2013.
Everything was made bespoke, and Hippo Leisure started to specialise in water play features specific to the UK market, as well as retro fittings to upgrade existing facilities. By taking water spray features and making them fun, Hippo Leisure soon became the go-to brand for inspiring water confidence, and this changed the way the brand did things forever. Early examples include Guilford Spectrum, a regular client of ours for over 22 years. Guilford Spectrum was a customer that allowed Hippo Leisure to make numerous suggestions for applying its new elastomer foam products that were a valid alternative to fibreglass outdoor play. This solution was unique as it could be sculpted to make unique shapes and sizes and was seen as a versatile option for leisure companies. Guildford Spectrum is a site that truly shows the scope of possibilities over time, with installation of varying sizes over the last 22 years. From safety solutions, pool plant maintenance, indoor and outdoor water play, theming and even slides.
In 2007, it was time to move again. This time, the brand made the shorter trip from Saltash to Plymouth, where it remains to this day in the 45,000-square-foot facility. The new emphasis was on redevelopment, although Hippo Leisure’s large-scale flumes and slides continue to bring joy to young and old up and down the country.
With countless return projects commissioned over the years, the expert team at Hippo Leisure are regularly called upon for small to large-scale fixes and bespoke water play features. This is because the brand has the unique position of being one of the UK’s only manufacturers of water play equipment with most of the alternatives being imported, and the odd piece made locally.
To this day, Hippo Leisure continues to be the go-to brand for numerous leisure centres across the UK and offers bespoke water play features globally. Not only has the brand helped conceptualise the leisure pool equipment for sites like SC2 Rhyl, but it has created water confidence facilities and made water play interesting and inclusive for everybody.
Fast forward to today, and Hippo Leisure has just finished the third phase for Newbridge Leisure Centre, transforming their facility from a 25m pool to a full leisure facility. The brand continues to work with local authorities, leisure centres, and outdoor water parks among other customers.
Rhyl – Hippo's biggest job
When the old Sun Centre at Rhyl was demolished the brand-new SC2 leisure centre took shape – opening in 2019. This would become the venue for Hippo's biggest job to date and a new water play offering was designed and installed by Hippo. The design is based around a high-level indoor platform and staircase that accommodates 3 water slides starting from different levels on the platform. This includes an indoor water play structure with various slides and interactive water play features, along with new water play components added to the existing outdoor paddling pool.
It’s been quite a 25 years but no nostalgic overview of Hippo Leisure would be complete without a mention of their ‘mini hippos.’ It has always been a family business at heart and the children of the Hippo Leisure crew have splashed, tested, laughed, and enjoyed the journey too. Now ranging from 2.5 to 21, Andy and the team can reminisce about how far the brand, and indeed, its family has come.
Now the Hippo Leisure team are looking forward to inspiring the next generation of mini hippos.