Often considered a wet roller coaster, a waterslide is a fast-paced ride, particularly popular in warm climates. The waterslide has been a part of water-themed amusement parks since the mid-20th century, and comes in a variety of styles. From the simple at-home wet slide to the sophisticated, stomach-turning speed slides, waterslides are a source of fun and excitement to many fans.
Like a roller coaster, a waterslide operates on gravity. Waterslides are essentially like a regular slide, but they contain a constantly circulating stream of water that reduces friction between the ride surface and the rider. The lowered friction leads to increased speed. Waterslides come in many varieties, from slowly winding descents to speedy, terrifying drops. While a coaster uses a long hill to create a propelling drop, waterslides usually begin at the top of a high staircase or ladder.
Home waterslides are often placed next to in-ground pools as an exciting alternate way to enter the water. These are usually identical to playground slides, with the exception of a hose attachment that provides the current of water at the top of the slide. Most home versions can be plugged into an outdoor faucet like a regular hose.
Extreme or speed slides feature a large, straight drop into a plunge pool. The rider shoots down a nearly-vertical slope that ends in a long exit flume that slows them down. This type of waterslide is considered very thrilling and sometimes scary, as they create the feeling of dropping or falling straight down and can reach dizzying speeds. As of 2008, the tallest speed slide in the world is the Insano at Beach Park in Brazil.
Serpentine slides contain many twists and curves. This variety of waterslide is often partially or totally enclosed in tube-like structures, as riders may swing high on the walls during their descent and risk being thrown off the slide otherwise. Some serpentine slides are ridden on inner tubes or rafts, while faster versions are normally ridden without any equipment. Like most waterslides, serpentines exit into a plunge pool, usually creating a terrific splash.
Waterslides are a major component of water parks. These amusement parks feature pools, rivers and slides and are often beach or ocean themed. In recent years, the seasonality of water parks has been solved with the creation of indoor parks. One Wisconsin city, Wisconsin Dells, is often called the “water park capital of the world” featuring 18 indoor water parks and 3 outdoor water parks.
As the number of waterslides grows throughout the world, parks compete for record setting slide. Claims for the longest waterslide go to the Black Hole slide in Austria’s Sonnentherme Lutzmannsburg at 692 feet (211 m.) Walt Disney World’s Summit Plummet claims to be the fastest in the world, reaching 60 miles per hour (96 kph) in its descent. The argument for biggest water park in the world is hotly debated, and no clear winner has been named.
While some waterslides are slow and gentle, most are not for the faint-hearted. If you have neck or back injuries or heart problems, consult with a doctor before riding any thrill ride. Adults should take care when choosing to let children ride any waterslide, for while some may find it exciting, others may be frightened by more extreme versions of the ride.