Mar 4, 2009

Flume War

One of the best things about the Gold Coast is its plethora of high-quality entertainment parks, all located close enough to Brisbane to be convenient, but far enough away to not be annoying as all hell.

Sure, entry prices are steep and God help you if you fancy a bite to eat from one of the takeaway kiosks ($14.95 for two drumsticks, chips and a small drink? Awesome!), but you can't doubt the general high quality of the attractions, and moreso, the rides.

The Wah and I popped down to the cheapest of the parks on Saturday - Wet & Wild. Now you might think two pasty white geeks like us would not really be keen to spend six hours in the blazing sun for the odd plummet down a speed slide or bob in the wave pool. But you underestimate the sheer physical thrill  - and for the Wah, the thrill of physics - involved in such rides as the Tornado, the Kamikaze, the Sidewinder and The Black Hole. Even for us geeks.

It is amusing to stand in a queue surrounded by bogan dudes with giant tatts of dragon heads on their backs and chicks in Australian flag-flavoured string bikinis that don't quite cover the whole cleavage (dare I mention - "underboob"), and listen to The Wah explain that when we hit the bottom of the 10-metre drop of the Kamikaze, we'll be moving at 15 metres per second, until friction hits and slows us. Smarty pants.

Fun though these parks generally are, there's always one ride that's a god-awful disappointment to the soul. This particular day it was White Water Mountain, which consists of four interlocking flumes, all fuelled by a stream of water weaker than Oprah's willpower in the face of a 12 pack of Krispy Kremes. We queued for almost ONE HOUR to lie on our backs and toddle along so slowly, I could have re-enacted The Lady of Shallot on the way down.

Except for the fact that these days, you can't actually sit up on any flume rides anymore. Fair enough, in your wacko crazy torpedo tube rides, you gotta stay within the confines of the two or four-person rubber dinghy. But seriously, a flume ride? They're about as dangerous as a Labrador puppy on valium. But thanks to Workplace Health and Safety Laws, flume rides are now the ENEMY OF FUN.

It made me remember childhood trips to the Australian Woolshed all the more fondly. Back in the late 80s, the Woolshed in Samford Valley was THE place to go if you were on Brisbane's northside and seriously needed some waterslide action. You'd pay by the hour, and the attendant would brand your exit time into your forearm with a thick black waterproof stamp. It was a badge of honour; the pre-teen equivalent to a nightclub stamp.

You'd then hit the slope uphill, pushing your little legs 100 metres or so until you reached the top of the slides. There were three to chose from. The first and second were similar in length and speed; the third was longer and faster. There was none of this "Wait for the person in front of you to finish before getting on the slide" nonsense. The attendant would lazily wave you on once the person ahead of you had turned the first bend. This meant faster queues, and better yet, the ability to clog up the ride with your siblings and friends halfway down - forming a conga line of delighted children, speeding at full tilt to the suspiciously yellow but thankfully shallow exit pool below.

You could sit up, lie down, turn around and go backwards - nobody cared. You could even get a run up and take a flying leap at the start of the flume to build up momentum if you liked. The only time attendants got crabby was when you tried to block the water jets in order to force a torrent of H2O to hit your backside as you took off - a "Perfect Storm" of sorts on a flume slide.

Up and down you'd go, over and over, until your time was up. Then Mum or Dad would buy you a Rainbow Paddle Pop and you'd chuff off home to rinse that unique chlorine/urine mix out of your hair. I'm positive regular visits to waterslides as a kid boosted my immune system.

The Woolshed slides are still there I believe; but I daresay they too have been sanitised and regulated just like their bigger cousins at Wet & Wild. And while I understand their public liability insurance must be enormous, it's still a bit of a shame. Some of the magic has gone.

Anybody else have stories of mad waterslides and water parks from their youth? I haven't even started to address the wonder that was Amazons Aquatic Adventureland at Jindalee...


  1. isn't really a waterpark. Back in the day it was called the Whittlesea Toboggan Park, 'cause all it had was 1 gigantic Toboggan slide.

    Talk about leathal, I have seen people fly off the track, flip on their sides and melt their t-shirts. The most dangerous thing was to go 2 adults up, the extra weight turned you into a missile making the run damn near impossible to complete successfully.

    Ahhh, good times.

  2. I've only been to Wet n Wild once... and that's back when it was called Cade's County and I was all of 7.

    I got fished out of the wave pool 5 times with lungs full of water by a strapping life guard, got knocked down the stairs of the toboggan by a big fat man, and got sunburnt to all hell.

    Happy memories...

  3. Living on the western suburbs all my life means that Amazons was the place for me. Though we hardly went there - in fact, I think I only ever went there once on a non-school trip, and that was with a friend's family.

    Wet and Wild I've only been to once ( see above, school excursion - seems those were the times to go to the themeparks. The Physics class excursion to Dreamworld was the best - I don't think we actually did any work that day, G Force achieved on the Tower Of Terror ? Thankyou Attendant! ).

    I've always had a fear of getting trapped inside a waterslide. I seriously doubt it will ever happen, but I reckon I would freakout beyond belief if it did. And then there's the old urban legend of the person sticking razor blades on the underside of the slides...

    Yep, I was a scared little child.

  4. Going to a waterpark is for pussies. We made our own. Of course we didn't have a slip 'n' slide but we did have a friend who's Dad had plenty of scraps of linoleum and a bottle of dishwashing detergent.

    As the grass at the bottom got more and more detergenty the kids started to slip straight across it (instead of slowing down) and then go straight over the front wall and onto the footpath.

    And what's this about all trampolines being enclosed now. It's not fun unless there's a very real danger of getting a testicle caught in a steel spring.

  5. Dan : You had it lucky. When I was a kid our waterparks were really rough. My Dad would wake us up at 7:30 in the morning, half an hour before we went to bed. He would lay broken glass and rusty nails on the gravel outside our house and splash it with kerosine. I would hurl myself into the flaming death pile while our father stomped us with army boots whilst he sang Halleljuah. .. You try and tell kids that nowadays and they won't believe you. (apologies to Monty Python)

  6. Dan you want danger and thrills? Try taking a four year old who thought he was Superman to Wet'n'Wild before the fun police got involved. I know he didn't see the problem with not being able to swim properly yet, let alone the parks other restrictions, which to his joy weren't enforced.
    Dam it was a good day anyway.

  7. Amazons, magic and I fondly recall them introducing the movies in the pool on Friday nights.

    Is Amazons still there? and does it now include a big sign saying 'no not the online bookseller'.

  8. Health & Safety = NO Fun at All!!!

    BTW you and Wah celebrating Chaz Day on the 23rd?

  9. Amazons was torn down and turned into the packed- in-rat-warren, slum-of-the-future "Amazon Place". I have many fond memories of going on the High Slide.. which was basically a hole in the bottom of the 4 metre tower. The thrill of the jump into the pool, the shock of the water... the fear when you realised that you have nutted yourself and can't swim to the surface due to the groin splitting pain... ah... good times

  10. we lived near the woolshed growing up - for 3 years in a row we went there with school, but not for the slides - for the other thing they did there. Sheep shearing shows. And only sheep shearing shows.
    Amazons had that great toboggan slide and the only prerequisite was you had to be able to carry the toboggan all the way up the stairs. somehow my very very skinny sister got the board up there. She was so light she didn't hit the water on the bottom, she glided about 10 cm above it and hit the pads at the end. there was blood.

  11. Ha.

    Try sliding down a granite rockface in the grip of a natural waterfall in a Far North Queensland rainforest creek.

    Never so fast nor far as a commercial waterslide, I'll grant you. But for clean water and privacy and scenery and danger, your waterslides couldn't come close.

  12. What Flinty said, except with reference to Litchfield NP in the Territory. Wet granite rockwalls do tend to wear the arse out of your swimming attire however.

    I too recall Wet and/or Wild in the days when it was Cades County Water Park (sadly I even remember the God awful jingle and the statue of Matilda from the '82 Commie Games.) And how the badly siliconed joins in the speed slides never failed to peel the skin off the back of your heels as they tried valiantly to insert your swimmers somewhere overly intimate. Australias Wonderland knocked up an ill advised water park as part of the early 90s renovations which eventually broke them, it was basically a photocopy of Wet and Wild. Dreamworld have a water park too now I think? But my fave slide growing up, being a NSW north coast kid, was the Ballina Waterslide - it had a massive (or what seemed to be massive to a 10 yr old) drop off to start the run, which generated impressive thrust for the rest of the journey. Second fave was the Coffs Aquajet at Park Beach Plaza which I think is still in business - and yes we pulled all the same waterslide stunts as mentioned above. Good times.

  13. Wow, waterslides eh? Never really got into them, to be honest. Apart from the odd mudslide into the dam at the old family property near Wodonga. Ah, the lovely smell of caked on cow-shit-mixed-with-mud... Dad would only let us do that if we promised to catch yabbies by hand when we landed in the fetid pool at the bottom.

    I remember seeing waterslides in almost every single coastal town between Melbourne and Townsville during our regular family roadtrips. Remember thinking there was an impressive tangle of them at the local pool at Mackay.

  14. Originally coming from the UK we only had one haven for water-based slidey fun. The only difference between British waterparks and their Antipodean counterparts is that during your whole slip-sliding day in Ol’ Blighty you are COLD AS BALLS!

    That was part of the thrill however, and kept you on your toes as you squeeled your way down The Black Hole or through the Viper Terror (best name for a flume imo, the whole slide was in the shape of a winding snake, with a head at the top AND the bottom!) In fact, the only time the water was suspiciously warm was in that vaguely toxic chlorine/urine shallow that was your reward for pelting down the tubular death trap as fast as you possibly could.

    The run-up-and-throw-yourself-from-the-top-as-fast-as-you-can was a particularly fine art that took years to perfect. People think water parks are all just fun but they also teach you the importance of streamlining, wind resistance and how to reduce it, and most importantly, slip streaming behind someone so that you can catch them and bring about the six-child high blockage half way down the pipe.

    No doubt in the future we’ll need to sign insurance waivers to declare our specified allocation of fun and that the park will not be liable to pay damages if our increments of fun surpass their allotted levels due to exceeding the 6.25 m/sec speed limit...or maybe I’m just cynical.

  15. What I love about this topic is that despite all the pain, and nut-crunching, and limb-snapping etc - everybody remembers massively dangerous waterslide practices with the sentiment: 'Good times'.

    It was irresponsible, but damnit it taught us about Life. ;)

  16. And of course there was the father thrashing t' youngsters to within an inch of their lives
    Aaaah Good Times