Australian Waterslides & Leisure slide complex, Saigon Water Park, Vietnam, 1997
One of the most interesting aspects of my 20 years in Asia has been watching, and working with, the evolution of waterslides from the early days to where they are today.
When I first came to China in 1996 I was the General Manager of the first ever waterpark development in China, Big Hippo Water World in Guangzhou. The waterpark had the usual bodyslides, speedslide, freefall, 2 person inner tubes slides and the, then new, mat racer. The installation was all done by hand, luckily the bodyslides, inner tube slides and mat racer were on hills and all pieces could be pre-assembled and carried on bamboo poles. As for the speedslide and freefall, they were all installed by being pulled into place by ropes.
In 1997 at Saigon Water Park, again working with Australian Waterslides & Leisure, a very similar ride mix was introduced with bodyslides, inner tubes slides, mat racer and a twister slide which was 2 high speed body slides twisting around each other.
In 1999 I was the General Manger of a new waterpark development in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Working with WhiteWater West we installed some of the newer waterpark innovations that were starting to lead the industry in a new direction. Again, the usual bodyslides, speedslide, freefall, inner tubes slides, but then we had the new family ride which was run with 4-5 person 72″ rafts. What we were starting to notice was that guests wanted to ride as groups. Group riding with friends gave a better experience and this was creating a change in the evolution of waterslides. There was also the first Asian installation of a SCS Tree House which has progressed and developed over the years as the Rain Fortress.
In the Early 2000’s I was involved with the installation and opening in Malaysia of Whitewater West’s first Boomerango in Asia, an exciting new ride that sent riders in single and double tubes down a steep drop before rocketing up a steep wall until they hit a height where gravity would send them back down the wall again, returning like a Boomerang.
In 2003 the first Tornado was installed in the USA and it wasn’t until 2007 that the first Tornado was installed and operated in China. The Tornado was a real game changer in the waterpark industry. In an industry where basically all of the fibreglass purchased and installed was part of the riders slide path, many experts claimed that the Tornado would not be a success as there was just too much fiberglass in the design that was not part of the slide path plus with the extra cost in the tridetic structure to hold this fibreglass in place. Well wasn’t that theory proven wrong!
The first Tornado installation in China was at Chimelong Water Park. After seeing the huge success of the Tornado in the USA, we added the Tornado after the original waterpark design was complete and strategically placed the ride next to the wave pool and added a viewing deck so that guests who were not brave enough to ride could experience the thrills of the ride without riding. From the viewing deck guests could watch the excitement of riders exiting the giant drop section and entering the giant funnel on 4 person clover leaf tubes, watching them and viewing there facial expressions as they oscillate high up the funnels walls. We named the ride ”a?� (da la ba) in Chinese which means Big Loud Speaker. The ride was and is still today is a huge success at Chimelong Water Park, with many more installations around China and the Chinese name of ”a?� (da la ba) sticking as it is commonly known as this all over China today.
Chimelong Water Park was a real innovator for the waterpark industry in China and the waterpark did not only have many China’s firsts, but also some world’s first waterslides, one of those being the Family Boomerango by WhiteWater West, a ride taking the Boomerango concept to a 6 person 96″ raft making it a much larger structure. It also offered many challenges as it took the excitement of the oscillating family raft ride during the initial stages of the attraction and then went to a ride that required the smooth and direct ride path of the Boomerango. Chimelong Water Park also installed Asia’s first Giant Rain Fortress, a structure that had so many attractions it could be a standalone waterpark.
In 2008 after the successful first season trading at Chimelong Water Park that saw an average of 10, 000 guest per day peaking with a 35, 000 capacity day, we did a major expansion, enlarging the waterpark from 170, 000sqm to 250, 000sqm. We added Asia’s first ever Proslide Behemoth Bowl plus made a major expansion to our Children’s pool, increasing the Children’s pool area to 10, 000sqm. For the highlight of this Children’s area we worked closely with Proslide to develop and open the world’s first Children’s Tornado, which was a huge success allowing kids to ride their own miniature Tornado.
2010 saw the exciting opening of the Beijing Watercube Waterpark, exactly 2 years to the day after the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This new & innovative waterpark was designed by Forrec and our biggest challenge was installing the attractions inside the already built Watercube building. The waterpark saw the introduction of the world’s first Proslide RideHouse plus the introduction into China of translucent injection moulded technology for the WhiteWater West Aqualoop & Bodyslide. All within the indoor environment creating an underwater theme. Proslide RideHouse, Beijing Watercube Waterpark, China, 2010
The industry leaders have progressed over the past few years with some amazing rides and ride complexes, combining 2 and sometimes 3 leading attractions into the one ride. The current installation I’m working on in Tieling, Liaoning, China is incredible, with an amazing ride combination all from the one 20-metre tower. Being an indoor waterpark looking for great ride marketability and capacity, 6 rides start from inside the waterpark, taking riders outside the waterpark before re-entering and into the splashdown pools again inside the waterpark. The complex, designed and installed by Proslide, has the world’s first double Tornado, which takes riders into a Tornado 24 before exiting to continue riding before entering the Tornado 60. This will then be combined with special effects of rain and a thunderstorm within the ride as the guests slide through the different sections. When I first came into China back in 1996, who could have foreseen this in China today? Proslide Ride Complex, Aqua Wave Waterpark, China, 2015
As positive as this evolution in Asia is, it also has its downside. I work closely with Whitewater and Proslide and personally know and understand the effort and engineering that goes into these new ride developments, not only the design but the installation and the start up by the professional installers on site. Once the ride is designed and manufactured, the installation and initial testing is where most of the hard work is. We are seeing many similar rides being produced and installed around Asia by suppliers and unfortunately there is more to these rides then just copying and producing something that you see. The amount of work that is required in the initial design and engineering to installation on site and the setting of water volumes in starter boxes and reverse injectors requires expertise and knowledge. Unfortunately, we are seeing similar rides, attractions and even wave pools popping up around Asia that are, at times, poorly designed, manufactured and installed. I see many installations where the rides do not work and are unsafe. This, combined with poor operations, ongoing management plus poor understanding of the attraction dynamics by the owners and operators, is seeing these attractions being opened to guests and unnecessary accidents happening, which is only leading to bad PR around the region. It is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed by the industry.
Watching the evolution of waterslides within Asia has been an amazing experience and will continue to be so. I have worked with many industry leaders and I would like to introduce a real unsung hero. As I have stated, the ride installers have had a difficult job in traveling into Asia to install some of these new attractions within what can be called a very difficult working environment at times. David Vikner worked on the very first ever waterslide installation for WhiteWater West and then he continued to be a pioneer, working on the first installations all around Asia. I was lucky enough to work with Dave at Chimelong Water Park and Beijing Watercube Waterpark. His knowledge of the industry was second to none and without his dedication to these initial installations in Asia the waterpark industry would not be where it is today.
Very sadly, Dave suddenly passed away last month, and I personally want to state what a pleasure it was to be able to not only work with but to also become close friends with Dave. He will be truly missed and for anyone who had the pleasure of working with Dave, I would like to finish with one comment, “Good Morning”.