And there it was. Standing taller than the Statue Of Liberty, intimidating all who come before it like a mythical dragon in a nightmare. Your neck stiffens as you try to eye the very top of this beast while you second guess yourself for walking through the gates of Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
The official stats: 17 stories tall. (That’s higher than Niagara Falls) The smaller second “hill” is 5 stories high. 262 steps to the top.
On a chilly Tuesday morning before the park officially opened to the public, I finally had the opportunity to ride Verruckt for myself. In 2014, the slide’s opening was delayed and I missed my chance to experience it by a few days. Second time is a charm in the world of water parks and I was more than ready to take the plunge at more than 60 miles an hour.
When I say “plunge” – I mean it quite literally. There’s really not much of a gradual drop to the bottom – it’s as though you’re falling off of a cliff. That whole gravity thing keeps you in the raft along with a belt made of Velcro that really seems like more of a hilarious gesture than a safety measure.
The walk up to the top really quite perfectly sets the stage for your fast drop on the water slide. If nothing else – you are seriously way too tired to walk back down the steps again if you decide to chicken out. Perhaps the folks at Schlitterbahn hope you’ll just say “oh screw it” and ride down the raft instead.
One misconception about Verruckt is that you ride it like a traditional water slide. Instead you sit inside a blue inflatable raft that seats up to 4 people assuring that riding the world’s largest water slide doesn’t also include getting the world’s most awful wedgie. Weight is a factor in who gets into your raft. My Dad happened to be joining me for the experience and together we didn’t weigh enough to safely proceed down the slide. Thankfully, an employee at the park, who oddly enough had never been on the slide, joined us to add the extra weight needed.
As you sit inside the raft and inch closer to the edge – a safety gate swings open although your view to the bottom is actually obstructed until you’ve finally been pushed over the edge. So it’s not until you’re actually plunging down more than 168 feet to the bottom that you start to comprehend what you just signed yourself up for.
So, how many people bail out each day? “Sometimes 4 or 5. Sometimes nobody. Most people know when they get into line that they have what it takes to ride it” says Schlitterbahn Director Of Marketing, Jeff Hays.
The slide is actually more of a “water coaster” and has been featured in a wonderful Travel Channel documentary called Xtreme Waterparks.
The worst part of the experience is that it goes by so fast that your brain has almost no time to figure out what’s going on. It’s really only at the very end (less than 20 seconds after you first drop down) that you can begin to contemplate what just happened.
People that are afraid of heights will probably hate it. The good thing about the slide is that it’s completely controlled. Yes, they read you a laundry list of “we’re not responsible if…” scenarios because some lawyer told them to. I never felt unsafe. The stairs are probably more dangerous than the slide itself.
One final note about Schlitterbahn – they don’t charge for parking and actually let people into the park early to stake their claim for a home base as they spend their day in the water park. That way the lines to get in are short and everyone’s ready to go when the place officially opens. Visitors can actually bring food into the park – so long as you follow the guidelines.
Watch a video of yours truly going down the Verruckt below: