SHERIDAN – Two yellow inflatable rafts, each carrying two riders, sat side by side in different lanes at the top of Dueling Splash Blasters at Splashway Waterpark and Campground.
The rafts took off at the same time and dipped and dove through yellow, blue and turquoise chutes. They climbed uphill under the power of almost 300 water-blasting nozzles and twisted and turned through flying saucer features in a race to the bottom of the water coaster.
Dueling Splash Blasters, the only coaster of its kind with three existing technologies combined in one attraction, made its debut at Splashway on Monday, and about 1,800 guests were expected to ride it throughout the day.
The technologies include dueling chutes that race the rafts two at a time, flying saucers that swirl them around smoothly and rocket blasts that propel them uphill. The two 770-foot-long enclosed chutes, which drop from a platform almost 70 feet above the ground, open intermittently to reveal the sky and the competing raft during the nearly one-minute ride.
As long as the combined weight on each raft is at least 150 pounds, children at least 42 inches tall – which is the average height of 5-year-olds – can ride. Nicholas Yu, technical program manager for ProSlide, the Canadian company that engineered and built the coaster, said having a ride that accommodates these children is “a big deal.” The other two water coasters at Splashway, which provide more intense and shorter 17-second and 40-second rides, require riders to be 48 inches or taller.
“This is very important to us because the water park is a place to take the whole family,” said Carl Blahuta, who owns and manages the water park and campground with his wife, Laura Blahuta, and her parents, Karen and Carl Novak.
As four children exited the new water coaster, they described getting splashed with water as one of the best parts of the experience. Yu compared the water that douses riders after the uphill climb to the waves that crash over the heads of barrel surfers.
“These guys from Canada were worried because sometimes riders in other areas don’t want to get wet,” Carl Blahuta said. “But in Texas, you can’t get wet enough, so I told them not to worry – the more the better.”
The Staff family from El Campo visits Splashway once a week during the summer. They bought season passes because the water park is only 45 minutes from their home.
“I like the turns, drops, splashes and racing,” said Rylan Staff, 10, who rode the raft with her mother, Recie Staff. Recie said some riders might find Dueling Splash Blasters preferable to the adrenaline-inducing free falls of the two other water coasters in the water park.
“Even if your back hurts, if you can make the climb, you can ride it,” she said.
Lexi Havel, 8, of Houston, traveled to Splashway with a group of girls in a softball league. She liked that the rafts required two riders because “it’s more fun and faster, and you don’t have to wait as long in lines with two people riding.”
And the crowd was not limited to young children and their parents.
Logan Moon, 26, and his girlfriend, Samantha Ysaguirre, 24, made the trip to Sheridan from Victoria in just over an hour to visit the water park nearest to home. They had not been to a water park for a few years and wanted to check out the newest attraction for “a change of pace.”
Splashway Waterpark and Campground opened in 1998. Splashway guests are allowed to take ice chests inside the park area, or they can order from Splashburger, Ray’s Cafe or Beachside Pizzeria. They also can reserve cabanas that provide full food and beverage service with the push of a button.
Group specials and season passes are available for the water park, and the 100-acre property also features putt-putt golf and laser tag for Splashway and other guests at an additional cost. Other amenities, such as kayaking, golf cart rental and paddleboating, are reserved for campground guests only.
ProSlide has developed attractions in the United States, China, the Middle East and Europe, and Ray Smegal, chief commercial officer for the Canadian company, said in a video that Dueling Splash Blasters “is really the best of the best of the best.”