Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Waterslide Wildman

This column/post was the first one published by the Kelowna Courier newspaper (fame at last!). I started writing it after a family trip to Salmon Arm and a visit to the waterslides there.

The newly hired young lifeguard had not yet estimated the physical characteristics of the enormous bow-wave of water hurtling towards her. Nor had she figured out the physics of several hundred pounds of sun-burnt blubber achieving terminal velocity down an inclined plane, landing in the shallow waterslide pool before her.

In short order, the shock wave and explosion of water was upon her – a surprised look on her face as if to say “How could something that big go that fast?” I’m fairly certain this was her last conscious thought prior to being rolled sushi-like down the edge of the pool. I cannot be sure though, since I was the ‘meteor’ which was about to cause the ‘crater’ in the water and, as such, I was completely out of control, whooping with joy and blowing water out of my nose like some sort of thrashing aquatic dragon.

The inspiration for this merriment came as I was teaching my children the finer points of biological vandalism by helping them place pine beetles on our neighbours view-blocking trees. There we were, tweezers in hand, when it occurred to me there were perhaps better things we could be doing as a family (never let it be said I am an uncaring or uncreative father).

Now when it comes to watersliding I have to tell you – I’m good. None of this ‘sit up and go slow like a wuss’ behaviour. Not me. I tuck my feet under my butt, lift my back off the slide, and with my friction and drag thus reduced I hurtle pool-ward at truly enormous speed. Luge-like, I sail high into the banked corners, sometimes graying out from the enormous g-forces acting upon my body.

Exposed skin of knees and elbows occasionally rubs the dry portions of the slide – causing intense pain and billowing smoke until I either plunge the blackened limb into the water trough alongside me, or reach the soothing safety of the splash down pool. Ahhhh.

The heat of these burns has, on occasion, forced the pool maintenance staff to lower the temperature of the water for a few hours to compensate – but no matter. The pain and smell are worth it. Seeing the wide eyes of my dripping admirers – kids who have never seen such speed except at airshows, and who never dreamed they would see such daring up close – this is what sustains me.

As I await sponsorship on the professional circuit, my thoughts wander to the possible benefits of mask and cape, or perhaps shoulder-mounted spoilers for greater down-force. Apparently professionals shun these enhancements, which tend to take away from the purity and unspoiled nature of the sport. I will carefully assess their concerns, let me assure you.

Likewise, I am aware of some participants using performance enhancing lubricants like tanning lotion and baby oil on their shoulders and feet. These miscreants should be punished by the appropriate regulatory bodies, let me tell you. I admit I tried these substances once (supplied by my trainer) and they scared me so bad I never touched them again. The feeling of speed and power was almost overwhelming. That and going so fast I bashed myself unconscious in the first turn may have had something to do with my shunning of these fluids.

And so, as you bask in the hot Okanagan sun, the sound of ravenous pine beetles felling trees in the background, think about introducing your children to this graceful and fun pastime (watersliding – not beetle placing). Don’t let us more experienced sliders intimidate you. Let your kids enjoy watersliding for what it is – a playground activity with a healthy dose of speed and danger to excite the senses.

And a way for middle-aged fat guys to embarrass their wives sitting at poolside.

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