Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Liz from Sydney. Liz Wonders, “How do waterslides work?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Liz!

Imagine it’s a bright summer day and you’re at a theme park with your family. You’ve ridden a roller coaster, played a few games, and finished an ice cream cone. After hours walking around in the hot sun, there’s one fast way to cool off. What are we talking about? A lightning-fast ride down the nearest waterslide, of course!

As you walk to the waterslide, though, you start to notice it’s much taller than it seemed from the other side of the park. You may start to feel a little nervous, especially if you’re afraid of heights. And that’s okay! Plenty of people feel anxious before jetting down these slippery rides. Maybe it’ll help to learn a bit about how they work.

Like roller coasters, waterslides rely on physics. You may have learned about the different types of energy in school. Waterslides depend on both potential energy and kinetic energy.

Have you ever ridden or seen a waterslide in person? If so, you know they typically start at the top of several flights of stairs. As riders climb these stairs, they’re building potential energy. This reaches its peak when riders take their position at the top of the slide.

When riders set off down the slide, that potential energy turns into kinetic energy—the energy of motion. The trip down the slide also relies on gravity. Gravity pulls the rider toward the Earth, helping to speed up their trip down the waterslide.

Of course, friction also plays a part. Whether a person rides down the slide on their backs, a mat, or an intertube, the contact causes friction. This can slow the rider down. However, friction is reduced by one of the main parts of a waterslide—water itself! The layer of water running down slides helps riders move faster.

The design of the waterslide itself also affects the riders’ movement. Some slides have a steeper slope than others. This will increase the speed of the ride. Additionally, some slides are straight, which also makes the ride faster. Waterslides that curve may reduce speed, but they also offer the thrill of sudden changes in direction.

Millions of people visit water parks each year, and many come for the fun offered by waterslides. Some slides stand out among the crowd. One example is the Leap of Faith in the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort. It features a 60-foot drop into a transparent underwater tube. 

Kentucky Kingdom’s Deep Water Dive is another popular slide. It’s a straight slide that drops riders 121 feet. Popular curving waterslides include Hurricane Harbor’s King Cobra and Splashin’ Safari’s Mammoth.

Many kids and adults alike still WONDER the same question: Are waterslides safe? After all, people have been injured on these rides before. However, following park rules can help keep you safe. Never go down a waterslide face-first, and don’t try to stop on your way down. Both of these actions can cause serious injury. It’s also important to remember that all rides come with a risk. Waterslide designers can’t predict every issue that could occur.

When you follow safety guidelines, waterslides can bring a lot of joy to the summer months. Do you have a favorite waterslide? What other water activities do you enjoy when temperatures rise?

Standards: NGSS.PS1.A, NGSS.PS3.A, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

Wonder What's Next?

Today’s Wonder of the Day may be one of the most abZORBing wonders you’ll ever read!