Ready, Set, Slide!

By Rick Braschler and Byron Joplin

What do 214 feet of pure, liquid awesomeness feel like when it’s 105 degrees outside and you’re zooming downhill with your arms stretched out like Superman, being sprayed by a hundred streaming water spouts and landing in a bodacious, cataclysmic splashdown?

Answer: Cardiac Falls at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Mo.

Cardiac Falls is one of three Slip ‘n Slides to grace the grounds of Kanakuk in recent years.

And, as the heat indexes of the last two summers have plagued the Midwest, the onset popularity of these “monster” slides has been a huge hit.

This answers the big question among camp directors: “What do you do with 200 campers in the middle of a hot day that they haven’t done before, and will keep them coming back for more?”

Gather The Materials
To include one of these awesome slides in your camp, you’ll need:

  • A 214-foot by 12-foot sheet of vinyl
  • 428 feet of PVC pipe
  • Sand
  • Foam
  • Railroad ties
  • Water
  • A group of campers.

In constructing such a complex slide, it is helpful to have some hills on the property to gain the slope needed for the necessary speed. These will negate the need for additional fill dirt or construction.

Cardiac Falls is positioned on a 13.96-percent slope, which provides adequate speed for rider enjoyment and splashdown without getting stuck midway.

Once the slope has been set, the underlayment is put in place prior to setting the vinyl.  The underlayment consists of the following layers:

  • Dirt
  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Foam.

The foam is 2 inches thick and spans the length of the slide to provide comfort for the rider.

Make The Slide
Perhaps the most crucial element of the slide is the vinyl. As many of you know, youth camps are hard on equipment and property due to the volume of people who pass through in a short amount of time. So, not just any old piece of plastic or vinyl will do.

Kanakuk acquires its Slip ‘n Slide vinyl from Springfield Specialty Products in Springfield, Mo.—the same company that makes the Blob.

To handle the wear-and-tear and to produce a thrilling ride for the riders, the vinyl is cut 12-feet wide with a seam in the middle. This seam results from welding the two pieces of vinyl, and is placed on the underside of the slide for rider comfort.

The width of the vinyl allows for two riders at a time to increase the thrill, and to accommodate large numbers of riders.

There wouldn’t be any enjoyment sliding down vinyl without the presence of water, but with such a long stretch of vinyl, a trickle from a hose won’t suffice. The PVC pipe, mounted along railroad ties, adorns both sides of the slide so riders are sprayed all the way down.

At the bottom of the slide, the catch pool is 8 inches deep and runs 40 feet long to provide adequate braking as well as a thrilling splashdown.

Even though the water provides adequate braking, it should be monitored for quality and safety so as not to harbor contaminants, which could harm humans. Measures to consider include chlorination or similar treatments as well as refilling the catch pool with fresh water after each use.

Set The Rules
Safety and risk management play a key role in developing any camp activity. Slip ‘n Slides are no exception.

By the very name, one key hazard is noted--slips! Slips are the leading cause of injury on this attraction, so proper footwear is required as well as observing rules for no running past the launch point. At this point, riders are required to be prone and riding in the “Superman” position.

The second-leading cause of injury involves foreign objects—such as rocks or sticks—that have fallen into the slide path. Therefore, before opening the activity, operators must conduct a site analysis to remove any debris that could injure a rider.

Lastly, supervision is a key to maintaining a healthy and positive camper experience. Given the distance of the Slip ‘n Slide, it is essential to have two adult operators—one at the top to start the riders and one at the bottom to signal the OK.

Riders can then enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced, wet ride, free of obstacles.

Want to spice up your summer-camp experience? Take a simple, long-time camp experience called the Slip ‘n Slide, and give it some muscle. Your campers will not forget the fun they just had, and will anticipate all year the fun to be had at next year’s camp.

Are you ready? Get set. Slide!

Rick Braschler is the Director of Risk Management for Kanakuk Kamps, and the Senior Risk Consultant for CircuiTree Solutions, offering specialized risk-consulting in the camping and outdoor-recreation industries. He is the author of “The Child Protection Plan,” a field manual for youth-serving organizations, which includes 122 measureable protection elements, policies, procedures, forms, checklists, and a self-audit. He can be reached at rsbraschler@kanakuk.com, 417-266-3337, or visit www.circuitreesolutions.com/workshop .

Byron Joplin is the Field Maintenance Supervisor for Kanakuk Kamps with over 30 years experience in construction and maintenance development and design.