The Psychology of Splash

By: Kelly Sall

Ask anyone if they like water rides or not and you will usually get an enthusiastic, “Yes, I love them!”. Now, ask those same folks about whether they like getting wet at a theme park, and you’ll probably get two very different replies. You see, there is generally a sharp divide amongst those that seek the splash versus those that duck the deluge, and it is in this watery waltz where the true fun and thrill of water rides lie.

The Battle of Wet vs. Dry

The first group, whom I’ve dubbed Wet Warriors, are those guests that you see clamouring for the front seat on a flume ride. They have come prepared to get soaked, wearing minimal clothing: shorts, tanks, and flip flops, angling for every splash coming their way. For them, getting drenched is as big a part of the fun as the ride itself.

On the other end of this spectrum, are the Poncho Patrol, so named because they’re the guests seen carefully choosing what seat looks to be the driest on the boat. They’ve meticulously covered every inch of themselves in a plastic drape in order to stay as pristine as possible, while doing their best to avoid surprise water falls and blasts from spray guns. It’s the challenge of avoiding the splash that adds to the thrill for this group of water evaders.

It’s also the contrast between these two groups that adds to the on-ride entertainment, seeing the delight of one group at the expense of the other.

How Wet is Too Wet?

A way to balance the needs of the two factions for any park is the careful selection of the ride you choose to install. Different water rides give different levels of soak and some rides are configurable to vary the amount of water that guests will encounter.

*Statistics based on quantitative research that we conducted in 2018 through an anonymous Splash Factor survey among parks across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

According to our research, most parks prefer to take a middle ground when it comes to soaking their guests. On our very scientific scale from lightly misted to totally drenched, most operators prefer to leave their guests sufficiently soaked. It’s a good compromise that allows our Wet Warriors to get a refreshing dousing of H2O, while the Poncho Patrol walk around in squishy shoes looking for a Haystack Dryer or a patch of sun to dry off in. Either way, both groups are left happy, some are just a little wetter than others.

Expert Advice

For me, my strategy is simple: I leave these rides for just before lunch to allow myself time to dry out when the heat is highest and I am taking a break.

At WhiteWater, we use this same sound logic to design ride experiences that fit whatever soak profile is desired. Our team provides guidance on interactives and effects to maximize, minimize, or find the right balance of wet for your ride and for any season.

I will happily come test it out for you… just as long as it is before lunch.

Contact the author:

Want to learn more from Kelly Sall? Shoot him an email at: kelly.sall@whitewaterwest.com.

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Mat Racer, Gui'an Water Park, Fuzhou, China