Sunday, February 13, 2005


A photo of a wave adorns the wall of Jerry Pupillo's office at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park in Kapolei. Pupillo, the park's general manager, enjoys surfing at Old Man's and Bomboras.

Pupillo finds life
is quite an adventure

Jerry Pupillo

» General manager of Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park in Kapolei, which is nearly 6 years old and is opening a new ride designed to simulate surfing and body boarding.
» Born in Indiana, Pupillo moved to the islands in 1986 to attend Hawaii Loa College. He graduated with top honors and a degree in international business.
» Pupillo has worked for Best International Marketing Group, Kualoa Ranch & Activity Club, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Diamond Resort Hawaii, the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club and JTB Hawaii. He also has worked for the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in Okinawa, and the World Trade Organization's Market News Service in Geneva.

Question: How old are you?

Answer: Thirty-seven. I just had my birthday. Just took it easy. They threw me a big party at the office and tried to surprise me, but they telegraphed it too well. They called and said "Jerry, could you come over to our office?" I said, "Is everybody over there?" I could hear a groan on the other side.

Q: I understand you surf. Where do you like to surf? How often?

A: If I had my choice, I like Old Man's or Bomboras. Bom-boras is the break off Magic Island. Old Man's is at Kaimana. I don't get out as much as I used but I love my work and am still happy.

Q: How many visitors to the water park? What's the mix of business?

A: We average about 350,000 a year. We're 70/30: 70 percent of business is local, which is fantastic and we appreciate that kamaaina come back for us.

Q: Has the mixed changed since opening in 1999?

A: It's stayed pretty steady actually. I think some of that was world events. We always count on the visitor market will continue to grow for us, especially as Ko Olina gets that critical mass out there.

Q: How does the park's new Da' FlowRider surf ride work?

A: It's a thin sheath of water that flows underneath you and you can boogie board on it, and it has standing-up capabilities. It's a challenge. Once you get the hang of it, it's an absolute blast. You have to have some strength, so for small kids it will be a challenge. It's a double FlowRider and can hold two people. There's a small removable barrier. It's about 50 feet wide. When the barrier is in place, two people can boogie board at the same time. The landing is real soft now. They've made some improvements. It's almost like a supertight trampoline. There's some give.

Also, we're going through a rezone process that will allow us to do some other things in the future. One of those things slated for 2006 will be adventure golf, miniature golf. We won't have the big windmills or anything like that. A lot of rockfall water streams. Sort of the concept is an ahupuaa. So the first six holes could be water themed, then land, then mountains.7

Q: What will you charge for the ride?

A: It'll probably be a premium attraction with a minimal charge, maybe $2 or a pass all day for "X" amount, in addition to general admission. At nighttime you might not have to pay general admission. We're still massaging the prices. We want to do the right thing. It's a million-dollar investment. We want the consumer to feel good and think they are getting value. By pricing it low, we think there's value there.

Q: How much have you spent on new rides at the park?

A: The park initially cost $18 million. We have upgraded another $1.5 million to $2 million. Two new rides and a lot of things. The FlowRider is another $1 million. We are also going to add lights for evening functions. We have been renting lights in the past and figured for the amount we spend on rentals we should get something more permanent.

Q: How do you market the park out of state?

A: We've got a great network of travel agents in Waikiki, in Japan and on the mainland that we've been fortunate to forge relationships with over the years. They've been fantastic supporters of the park. Large travel agents run special programs with us. We get prebookings that are included in people's packages before they arrive. Also there's a great support network in Waikiki with all the travel desks. Also car rental companies and visitor publications that get the word out. We couldn't do it without the support of the travel agents and the industry in the off-season.

Q: How did you end up working at the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture and Science?

A: They have a program that recruits every year a couple thousand people from primarily English-speaking countries. It's called the JET program. A lot of people know about it if you're going to Japan.

There are two choices: teacher and coordinator of international relations. I did both. I coordinated programs for exchange programs for students from Hawaii, Taiwan and Okinawa. I also taught English in the public high schools in one of the cities there.

Q: How did you work for the WTO in Geneva?

A: I was really fortunate and lucky. It was something I wanted to do. I did it as an intern during my graduate work. I applied and fortunately was accepted and got to spend six months in Geneva and met and worked with people all over the world at the Market News Service.

They provided information for a lot of the nontraditional commodities: flowers, fruits, vegetables, hides and different things. They provided pricing information to a lot of developing country providers of those commodities. They could take that information and use it when they were selling their goods in the world market. So they were getting the proper exchanges, proper rates.

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