When trying to grab the attention of the masses, never underestimate the appeal of a young woman in a patriotic bikini. Throw in a few more winsome youth engaged in an exhilarating act of disregard for their personal well-being, a big Texas sky, and some fancy camera work, and voilà—you’ve just gone viral.
That’s the formula used in “BSR SUPER SLIDE—The Royal Flush in 4K,” a slick promotional video uploaded to YouTube on June 16. The ode to hot bodies, cold water, and the Royal Flush—a three-chute “super slide” that recently opened in Waco’s self-described “state of the art water sports facility,” BSR Cable Park—netted 12 million views in two weeks. It also drew a fair number of snarky comments about the whiteness and improbable litheness of the people in the video (“Just FYI, girls this thin do NOT exist in Waco”) as well as some reports of riders who had suffered lacerations and bloody noses on “the tallest and longest waterslide in the world.” Still, even the most jaded viewer couldn’t help but think that all those toned young men and women looked as though they were having a good time on the chutes, two of which feature sharply upturned ramps at the end that send riders in the video skyborne for a few brief moments before they come crashing back down into a pool of water a shade of luminescent turquoise usually reserved for Caribbean coves.
Two Sundays after the video’s debut, BSR’s muddy parking lot was packed with souped-up Chevys, Ford Raptors, and SUVs emblazoned with blingy college emblems. At the surprisingly low-rent entrance—a single foldout table—a freckled college-age kid swiped credit cards and slapped on wristbands. Had things gotten busier since the video blew up?
“Hell, yeah,” he twanged.
“That a good thing?”
He shrugged. “More work.”
At the slide itself—one of a handful of the park’s attractions—beer-guzzling frat daddies, bikers with pooching bellies, and leathery, silver-haired seniors hung out or waited in line to take the plunge into the pool—which, rather than an immaculate blue, was actually the color of liquefied khaki.
In the line, two young men who had driven up from Georgetown and a group of young women from Fort Worth sporting Tri Delta caps acknowledged that they were there because of the video. In fact, nearly everyone seemed to have been motivated by those gorgeous images. Well, almost everyone. One family from Alvarado said they’d made the trip specifically to ride on the park’s lazy river, which they mournfully referred to as “the mud pie.”
Near the top of the slide, a staff member with a bullhorn yelled at folks wading in the retention pool to move out of the way of the incoming human torpedoes. He also coordinated the dissemination of life jackets; unlike the kids in the video, who ride the slide in nothing but their swimsuits, everyone who attempts the Royal Flush is supposed to wear safety gear. Not that it guarantees anything—people emerged from the water holding the backs of their heads, having smacked them on the ramp.
“How big is this thing?” I asked the attendant.
He shot a look to the top. “A hundred feet.”
“That’s the biggest in the world?”
“Nah. This is the biggest that shoots you off. It’s the only one that does that.” He grinned. “ ’Cause it’s dangerous.”
If the bottom of the slide is treacherous, the view from the top is bucolic: leafy oaks stretch endlessly into the distance, broken only by the white orb of the Bellmead water tower. But this respite lasted only a few seconds before the attendant signaled that it was go time. I lowered myself onto the edge of the slope. It was steeper than I had imagined, and the ramp at the bottom that was waiting to fling my body into space seemed an awfully long way away. My heartbeat quickened. Then I let go of the bar above my head and fell.
Going down there’s not a lot of time to absorb the experience. One moment you’re streaking down a blur of white plastic, the next you’re hurtling through the air. I hit the water with a mediocre clap.
After climbing out of the slick-banked lagoon, I celebrated my survival with a chili dog and sat at a picnic table to take in the scene. A group of guys from Austin were doing the same. “I love how redneck this place is,” one of them said. “It’s just so Texas. I mean, look at that.” He pointed to a game of chicken fight about to commence on the opposite bank.
About that time one of his friends stumbled from the pool holding his ear, grimacing with pain.
“I think I blew my eardrum,” he moaned.
“Don’t ruin this for me,” his friend chided. “I’m having an awesome time.”