When I was growing up in the 80s, water parks started becoming all the rage. I liked going to pools in the summer. The water made the searing sun much more bearable. I had already decided that amusement parks were not for me, but somehow I didn’t see water parks as the same thing.
Not at first.
During high school, I remember going to Action Park in Vernon, New Jersey with at least two of my sisters, M and A. Because I wasn’t a great swimmer, I feared drowning, even there. I tried to go on the rides that were not as scary, but I also had a streak of daring in me. I didn’t want my fears to hold me back, and I wanted to have a good time.
On one ride, you sat in an inner tube with handles and a stream of water moved you along to the pool at the end. The beginning of the beginner inner tube ride seemed more intimidating to me than the beginning of the advanced inner tube ride, which had less of a slope. Once you got started on the ride, there was no way to get out except to go to the end.
After about 1,000 feet, we were brought to the edge of a six foot drop. The only way that you were going was over that ledge. Too late did I realize that the fear I could immediately see kept from me correctly reasoning that the advanced ride was called advanced for a reason.
And over that ledge I went, with my sister A not too far behind. I closed my eyes and gripped the handles. The drop was over quickly, and the water carried me along quickly to the end of the ride.
Except that I was backwards. I tried to turn myself around, with no luck. My sister A was having much more fun on this ride than I was. I was glad that I had gone on the ride, but I would have liked it more if I had not been scared as much as I was.
Which brings me to my next, terrible decision: I decided to go on a slide called the Kamikaze. Yes. Yes, I did.
The 4-story water slide sent you down a near-vertical slide that exited you at the bottom into a small pool of water. The only instructions you got were to lay flat, cross your arms in front of your chest, and keep your legs closed. I got the lay flat and crossed arms part right, but not the legs closed.
I shot like a bullet down and immediately my legs parted. As I flew down, my sister M tells me that a stream of water flew up between my legs like a fountain the entire way down. She was laughing at the sight. How could she not? Luckily, I was in the small pool at the bottom before long. The fear and the adrenaline rush had me trembling, and I pissed myself in the pool. I walked out of there with trembling legs, embarrassed that I had just given a show to the entire water park for free. I wasn’t sure what had possessed me to go down that slide, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be back to a water park any time soon.
Eventually, another trip to a water park showed up in my life. I think it was when I was on a student exchange trip to Madison, Wisconsin with my high school. This time, I thought I would play it safe. You know, having learned my lesson from my last trip to a water park and all. Instead of going on a bunch of water rides, I decided to go into the wave pool.
I liked the wave pool because it had ladders on both sides and a zero point entry. I wouldn’t be thrown against steps, I would just ride the waves out of the pool. So in I went, just like I was going into the ocean. I grabbed an inner tube and used that for support.
Before long, I started to feel seasick. I do get motion sick, but I was surprised that a wave pool would cause me to feel so nauseous so quickly. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it out of the wave pool by riding the waves out in time to avoid throwing up. So I decided to head for the one of the ladders on the side.
The wave pool was in full swing. I struggled to grasp onto the ladder. Every time it seemed I had a hold, another wave would come by over my head and almost, but not quite, make me lose my grip. Every time a wave washed over me, water went up my nose or into my mouth. I gasped and choked and struggled to pull myself up in between the wave crests.
After several attempts at the end of which I was certain I was close to drowning, I pulled myself up out of the pool and held on to the ladder as I stood at the top while I hacked and coughed my lungs out. One of the life guards saw me coughing and asked me if I was ok. I responded testily, “I am now!” I wondered to myself what was the point of having lifeguards at a wave pool if they don’t even notice when someone is in distress or having trouble getting out.
After that, I was just done with water parks. No park was worth risking my life. However, if you wish to go to a water park, I can only leave with you with the two best pieces of advice that I know:
Keep your legs closed, and never exit a wave pool by ladder when the waves are on.