My name is Ralph Amsden and sometimes I write things. These are those things.

Waterparks, Then and Now

My wife and I took our two oldest to a waterpark called Golfland/Sunsplash yesterday. It was their first time experiencing what I can only assume is heaven, if heaven were heavily chlorinated and filled with long ass lines.

Waterparks practically raised my friends and I. Our parents would buy a season pass, drop us off at the front gate around 90 minutes before the place opened, and then swing back around at dusk to collect their crispy, shivering, strung out remnants of human children.

I stopped going to waterparks somewhere in the middle of 9th grade, and like people who stop going to church only to return when they realize their kids are old enough to start sinning, these long summer days of entertaining a five and six year old led me to the epiphany of exactly why our parents bought those season passes.

We built up the experience to our kids for two weeks. My wife took the day off, we sent the youngest to daycare, and we had the time of our lives. During the course of the day I made sure to note several differences between the way things were when my friends and I were dropped off as kids, and the way they are now that we were dragging around kids of our own. For example:


Then: For some reason, my friends and I could swim and go on slides all day without ever having to use the bathroom.

Now: Despite asking our kids every five minutes if they needed to use the restroom, they were fine the whole time. I wonder why that is?


Then: The “water-gestapo.” They held the ultimate power. With just one tweet on a whistle they could get you to do, or stop doing, anything.

Now: These are scared teenagers working their first job, periodically showing off an involuntary twitch that lets you know it’s been at least an hour since their face was buried in a smartphone. I had one young lifeguard try and reprimand me for not being on my raft in the lazy river when I was trying to help my son, who had fallen through his. She told me what to do. I told her “no.” In doing so, I instantly became a god to the 5-15 year-old versions of myself.


Then: We had three goals when it came to the slides– 1) Find a way to “accidentally” ditch your raft on the way down, 2) If you did keep your raft, build up enough speed that you make it from the slide to the end of the distribution pool, and 3) maximize transition efficiency so that you could get right back in line and do another slide as soon as possible.

Now: We almost fell out of our raft once, and it was the most panic I’ve felt in a long time. As far as building up enough speed to reach the end of the pool, I’m going to have to go on a six month diet to NOT crash into the wall at the end of the distribution pool. My kids bought into the “maximize transition efficiency” idea right away, but to my embarrassing and humbling dismay, I can’t handle several flights of stairs like I used to. I was holding them back because I was too winded to follow my own strategy.

The Wave Pool

Then: The wave pool was good for one thing- positioning yourself for a wave to “accidentally” knock you back into the most attractive females in the pool.

Now: I spent the entire time desperately attempting to avoid physical contact with random strangers.


Then: High-fiving your friends every time you see a girl in a revealing bikini.

Now: High-fiving your spouse every time she makes a comment about the value of modesty when bikini-clad girls walk by.


Then: Seeing a teacher during the summer was already a massive buzzkill. Seeing a teacher having fun at a waterpark during the summer was enough to give me nightmares.

Now: I actually ran into some of my former students. Remembering how weird I used to feel, I made sure to hang around them for much longer than they were comfortable with. Sweet dreams, guys.


Then: I think a lot of people my age gave up on waterparks to save the skin on the bottom of their feet– much in the same way people quit drinking to save their liver.

Now: Water shoes, combined with ground-level misting technology means that the tales of scorched foot bottoms will be something our kids can never identify with.


Then: Chlorine sleep was magical. If you had been in the wave pool, the moment you closed your eyes at night you’d get that feeling you were being rocked to sleep, and then the chemicals of the day would win out and knock you into a perfect dreamless idiot sleep.


After ending my waterpark drought, I can’t wait to go back. The one thing that caught me off guard the most is just how far water slides built in the last five years have come. It’s like the difference between the last flip phone you ever owned, and the first time you ever used a smartphone. The new slides are both intimidating, and infinitely cooler. While there’s an urge to nag my kids about how good they have it, I’m just excited to be able to enjoy the parks with them– well, until they’re old enough to get dropped off by themselves, 90 minutes before the park opens.

2 Responses to “Waterparks, Then and Now”

  1. Kyle Fox

    “Long ass lines.” The lack of the hyphen creates some great imagery.


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