You’re falling through a pipe at 65 km/h (40 mph). Everything gets dark. And your body bumps from side to side as you wait to reach the water. But what if you don’t land on water? What if you don’t land at all?
Every time you drop your body down a waterslide, all you’re thinking about is having fun. You’re not thinking about how you’re putting your life in the hands of the amusement park staff. Or how one wrong move could leave you paralyzed. Nowadays, waterslide designers can use computers to calculate most falls and turns, so accidents are less common.
But make no mistake. Waterslides still send 4,200 people to the emergency room each year. So if you’re not careful, your 15 seconds of fun could turn into a life of pain. That’s why today we put together a list of five waterslides so dangerous you’ll need our help to survive them. Which waterslide defied the laws of physics? How can you stop yourself from flipping inside one? And why should you stretch before every ride?
We’ll start at:
Number 5. Steamer Waterslide
In Ontario, Canada, the Calypso Water Park was charged with not reporting incidents, having unsafe equipment and untrained staff. And one of the most dangerous attractions is the Steamer waterslide. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like inside a flushing toilet, well, this is the closest you’ll get to finding out. Riders sit in inner tubes and travel down a giant funnel before exiting through the waterslide’s tube. Numerous people flipped in the tube before exiting the waterslide.
In 2011, Joanne Davidson was approaching the bottom when she flipped, hitting her head and neck. Her head injury lead to whiplash and migraines. She sued for $500,000 in damages plus interest, costs and more. To prevent flipping, try to ride the tube correctly by distributing your weight evenly. And don’t try to spin or make any unnecessary movements.
Number 4. Aquasphere Waterslide
Located at the Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Center (PARC) in Frankston, Australia, this tricky ride closed and reopened several times before finally shutting down in 2016. A two- to three-person raft went down a drop, then into an enclosed serpentine with high-speed twists and turns. Finally, riders went into a sphere where they rode around 90-degree corners.
When two adults hit their heads on the waterslide, the ride closed for 10 days. Another time, a boy fell off the tube and lost consciousness for almost 15 minutes. On extreme rides like this, prevent whiplash and hitting your head by maintaining good posture. Don’t bend forward or backward. And always keep your eyes open so you can react to the sharp turns and drops. To avoid falling off the tube, tightly grasp the handles for the whole ride.
Number 3. The Black Hole Waterslide
Located at the Wet N’ Wild attraction in Orlando, Florida, many people got seriously injured and filed lawsuits. In this ride, a two-person float went down a dark, twisted tube. Some people fell from the float and hit the bottom of the slide. Others came to a full stop before reaching the end of the ride and got struck from behind by the next riders.
An ex-employee testified that the floats constantly got stuck in the waterslide. And even though it took 23 seconds to travel through the ride, employees sent people down every 20 seconds. Wet N’ Wild Orlando closed its doors permanently at the end of 2016. Always make sure the employees operate the rides according to the rules, and you’ll have enough time to finish the ride safely.
Number 2. Cannonball Loop
Located in the Action Park at Vernon, New Jersey, the gravity-defying Cannonball Loop closed just one month after it opened in 1985. Riders went down a black pipe at a 45º angle to a loop, then out to a puddled mat. The first unfortunate people who tried it were employees who the park paid $100 to take the waterslide. One person who rode it was not heavy enough. That caused him to fall off the pipe after passing the highest part of the loop.
He hit his head and almost fell unconscious, but he managed to get to the end of the ride. To ride the Cannonball, you couldn’t be too heavy or too light. You had to wear a plain bathing suit without any zippers or grommets, and you got sprayed with a garden hose before jumping in the pipe. Sand gathered at the bottom of the loop, so riders often got nasty abrasions on their backs. You could either make it through the ride and get some bruises or not make it at all and exit through an escape hatch.
Number 1. Punga Racers
This ride is in Volcano Bay, Orlando, considered the successor to Wet N’ Wild. On Punga Racers, four people in separate lanes ride body slides headfirst and compete to finish first. Many racers experienced nosebleeds and scrapes. But in 2019, James Bowen’s head slammed violently backward in the wading pool at the end of the ride.
Bowen couldn’t move. He was paralyzed. Still conscious, he was facing down and feeling terrified, thinking he would drown.
His wife and a park employee saved his life by pulling him out of the water. To help protect your neck, make sure that you stretch before the ride to relieve tension. Loosening your muscles makes spasms less likely to happen. And paying attention during the ride will help you anticipate twists and turns. Now you know what kind of waterslides can be dangerous and how to survive them. But these are not the only hazardous rides in amusement parks. Just ask the people who have fallen off roller coasters. That may sound like a death sentence, but some people have survived the drop.
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- “Calypso Water Park Facing 20 Charges From Safety Watchdog | CBC News“. 2022. CBC.
- “The Most Dangerous Water Slides You Never Knew Existed“. 2019. Grunge.Com.
- “Behold The Water Slide So Dangerous It Was Shut Down Immediately“. 2022. Gizmodo.
- “How To Protect Your Spine At Amusement Parks – Spine INA“. 2019. Spine INA.