Slippery staircases, fast slides, monkey bars and bouncy trampolines—the world of inflatable water play is seeing huge success in the 21st century.
Manufactured from lightweight yet durable PVC, the equipment lends itself to creative design, as well as easy transportation and storage. Furthermore, where waterparks used to be confined to inland locations, such as theme parks and children’s play areas, they can now be floated out on the open water, with swimming pools, lakes and shallow seas proving to be popular sites.
Modular designs mean size can be determined by space while flexibility in design allows individual pieces to be tailor-made for specific age groups.
One of the first players to enter the European market was Germany-based Wibit. Launched in 1996 to import water trampolines to Europe from the U.S., the company later began to design and produce its own equipment. Inspired by interlocking children’s building blocks like Lego, these could be joined together to make a waterpark.
Marketing Manager Lara Hülskamp-Seesing says Wibit Sports Parks can now be found in more than 80 countries worldwide. “We sell standalone items as well as modular products,” she explained. “The smallest single pieces cost around $1,500. Depending on the financial level, one can start with a small combination like the Start-Up and expand the park from season to season.
There is no limit in size. Because of the modularity, we can build any shape and any size the customer wants; any combination can be made to fit specific location parameters.
Wibit’s equipment is made from PVC which has been treated to become UV resistant. “The equipment is designed and engineered in Germany, with safety as well as fun in mind,” said Ms. Hülskamp-Seesing. Individual pieces and entire parks must comply with stringent safety standards and are tested regularly and certified by independent inspection operators, including established Technischer Überwachungsverein (TUVs) companies. “Set-up time mainly depends on the chosen combination and the number of people available. Once set up, the park will remain in the water for the whole season.”
The company manufactures everything from springboards, balance beams and bouncers to bridges, cliffs, monkey bars and rollers.
“The Wibit Step is one of our unique and innovative products—this can be integrated all around a waterpark and allows people of varying ages and physical conditions to climb on easily,” she said. “WibitTAG is the first ever floating sign that people can actually play on and is also a method of marketing. The modular Wibit products can be arranged into letters, numbers, shapes or symbols to communicate a message on the water—and it is available in any color.”
Water play equipment has also found a niche within the world of superyachts. Enormous slides, inflatable trampolines and high climbing walls can now be designed and made to fit individual vessels, explains Tom Addoms, director of sales and marketing at Florida-based FreeStyle Slides.
“We started 16 years ago with our first giant waterslide for waterparks and then about eight years ago, following requests from yacht owners, launched the FreeStyle Cruiser,” he said.
This is a custom-fitted, air-inflatable waterslide, which is specifically for yachts.
Slides can be mounted as high as the top deck and are inflated to allow a smooth journey down to the water. Prices are typically around US $5,000 but vary depending on size and design.
“There is currently very strong demand for yachting slides and other equipment, including inflatable jet ski docks, trampolines and pools,” he said. “So far, this has been the best year for us in the history of the company.”
He puts the success down to FreeStyle’s creativity with its designs and ability to respond to customer requests. “If you are providing something that is high quality, durable, safe and fun for the family then the possibilities are limitless,” he added.
In an increasingly digital and desk-bound world, said Ms. Hülskamp-Seesing, inflatable play equipment promotes healthy, outdoor fun.
Coordination, balance and agility are important aspects for the physical fitness of all age groups and even grown-ups can rediscover their inner child!
“Social interaction is encouraged, and ethnic barriers are broken through teamwork and quality time spent together,” she added. “The business of floating waterparks is growing really fast. We see a lot of potential for all kinds of customers, from young children to grown-ups and elderly people. We always try to revolutionize play on the water and the ocean offers plenty of room for it.”
Read more about water toys on NauticExpo website.