Yesterday, we went to Action Park, the NJ water park that has been made famous by videos about how dangerous it was in the 1980’s. I grew up going there every summer. My brother loved all the crazy water rides, and I enjoyed a lot of them, too. So when I heard that the place had finally re-opened under its old name, I was dying to go.
We had been talking about this trip for weeks. The Kid and I watched every video on You Tube (she likes to be prepared for things) and KPD and I were talking over memories of going to the park back in the day. Then, as we were putting on our bathing suits, KPD says, “I never liked it there much as a child.” I was flabbergasted, but he said he still wanted to go, so we went.
While we were there, he realized that the reason he hadn’t liked it was peer pressure. There are some big “rides” at Action Park (and there were even bigger ones back before law suit were common) like the Tarzan Swing and the Cliff Jump, where everybody watches you and mocks the people who wipe out. For me, this was never a problem. I was a girl, I went mostly with another friend who was similarly risk-averse, and I never had much compunction about telling people I didn’t want to do something. (Or telling people I did want to do something. My friend and I used to love the mini Cannonball ride in the kid’s section of Action Park, which was supposed to be for kids much younger than we were. We also enjoyed the ball pit.)
I knew lots of nerds who spent time at Action Park when we were kids. It was one of those places where a nerd could prove himself. While there were always plenty of bros there, and people don’t really make friends at a water park, unless they’re regulars, I suppose, on the Tarzan Swing, one is judged by one’s performance. If you can do something clever or athletic, you get cheers. If you wipe out, you are mocked. Everyone else is treated with a measure of respect for trying and succeeding. So nerds and bros could enjoy the park side by side, even in the 80’s.
For me it was always a place where I could enjoy thrill rides that were the right amount of thrilling for me. I never went on the Tarzan Swing or the Kamikaze. But I loved the basic water slides and the inner tube rides. And they had the best mini golf course I’ve ever played on. The Kid absolutely loved the place. Of course, she loves water, so she was (literally) in her element. And I think she enjoyed seeing how many different ways a person can have fun in water. Like my brother, she doesn’t like feeling out of control, so she didn’t go on any of the really high water slides, but she loved going on the Tarzan Swing and was happy to jump off a cliff once we showed her that the water was deep enough. And she positively loved the Wave Pool.
Of course, KPD and I were thinking and talking about physics and sociology all day–why this ride was scarier or more difficult or harder to ride than that ride–so I think we get to keep our nerd creed. I, for one, can’t wait to go back next year.