Area Aqua Adventures
What you need to know before you visit your local water park
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.