Area Aqua Ad­ven­tures

What you need to know be­fore you visit your lo­cal wa­ter park

Westcoast Families - - Families - by Clare Adams

some­thing about wa­ter­slides that just screams sum­mer; the per­fect pas­time of sunny days and the abil­ity to play all day long, let­ting the hours slide by (lit­er­ally!) with­out a care. How­ever, if you’ve got younger chil­dren who love to slide, and you start to go to a few dif­fer­ent places, you soon start to learn that not all slid­ing is equal. Some­times your lit­tle one can join in the fun, other times they’re not go­ing to make the mark. Hav­ing seen the su­per-sad, slumped shoul­ders of a dis­ap­pointed child af­ter a 45-minute drive to go slid­ing, I started to ques­tion how this all works.

What’s with all the dif­fer­ent rules?

This is a ques­tion I’ve had for some time, as it’s be­come ap­par­ent to us that some places seem to go on age, oth­ers by height, not all age or height re­quire­ments are the same, and then some al­low dou­ble-rid­ing (es­pe­cially for in­fants/tod­dlers) while many don’t. My kids love slid­ing, so when the wa­ter parks are closed, we hit the slides in all the rec cen­tre pools, but quickly found that even there the rules vary a lot. It seemed to me that there ought to be some stan­dard­iza­tion of the rules. But hav­ing asked the ques­tion of those in the know, I found that there are nec­es­sary dif­fer­ences that are driv­ing the rules. Li­cens­ing for wa­ter­slides is gov­erned by the Safety Au­thor­ity which tries to pro­vide a con­sis­tent ap­proach to reg­u­la­tions. But the fact is, the slides are all quite dif­fer­ent and as such have dif­fer­ent safety con­cerns. Most of the

time, the main fac­tor driv­ing the rules in place is ac­tu­ally the man­u­fac­turer’s guide­lines for that par­tic­u­lar slide. Harvey Ens­ing, Di­rec­tor of En­gi­neer­ing (I know, cool job or what!) at White­wa­ter Wa­ter­slides, based here in Van­cou­ver, ex­plained that most of the time the guide­lines are in place based on the type of land­ing pool at the end of the slide, the aver­age height/age when kids are ma­ture enough to ride sen­si­bly and the size/weight needed to carry a per­son all the way down a slide.

Fac­tors to con­sider:

If it’s a land­ing/re­ceiv­ing pool (deep wa­ter), then there is usu­ally an age re­stric­tion sim­i­lar to swim­ming on your own –around 7 or 8 years or a height re­stric­tion of 48”. A pool has to be deep enough to be ef­fec­tive at safely catch­ing all sizes of rid­ers up to adults, so a 3’6” pool (which is the stan­dard depth) would need a per­son to be around 48” tall to have their head above wa­ter stand­ing in it! Even slid­ing into an exit flume has po­ten­tial dangers, with many slides be­ing high up in the air, so chil­dren need to be ma­ture enough to slide sen­si­bly, not hold on or stand-up and to exit the flume quickly at the end. Al­though wa­ter­slides have wa­ter flow­ing down them to carry the slid­ers, you need to have suf­fi­cient weight to be car­ried the length of the slide. If a child were to come to a stop part way down it’s a po­ten­tially very danger­ous sit­u­a­tion. Most slides do not al­low dou­ble or tan­dem rid­ing be­cause the ex­tra weight can cause rid­ers to go too fast, so un­less it’s ex­pressly per­mit­ted, you should as­sume that your child will need to ride alone and meet the nec­es­sary age/height re­quire­ments. If a child is drop­ping into a land­ing pool and isn’t a very strong swim­mer, they should wear a life-jacket, but many slides that end in an exit flume pro­hibit or pre­fer that you don’t wear life-jack­ets, but there is a risk of the life­jacket or the slide be­ing dam­aged/scratched. Par­ents should ex­pect to have to wait at the bot­tom of the slide for chil­dren six years or younger, es­pe­cially in rec cen­tre pools as there is a risk that the child could exit the slide and go straight into deep wa­ter. This is sim­i­lar to the re­quire­ment that younger swim­mers should al­ways be within arm’s reach of an adult. • Re­mem­ber that most wa­ter parks re­quire you to sign an in­sur­ance waiver, re­duc­ing their po­ten­tial re­spon­si­bil­ity for ac­ci­dents or in­jury, whereas the recre­ation pools with slides do not. This gives the wa­ter parks added flex­i­bil­ity with their poli­cies and pro­ce­dures be­cause you as­sume more re­spon­si­bil­ity, which is an­other rea­son that the re­stric­tions dif­fer. So, if ev­ery slide po­ten­tially has its own set of rules, how as a par­ent, do we know what’s what? As I’ve come to learn, the best thing is to check the web­site if the slid­ing or safety poli­cies are given or oth­er­wise call ahead and find out the rules, par­tic­u­larly if you know your child will be dis­ap­pointed if they find they aren’t go­ing to be able to slide.

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