Summer Fun: You Might Wanna Schlitt Down for This

Our Summer Fun extras begin with 'the hottest, coolest time in Texas'

Come play…
Come play…

Vacations weren't really a thing in my family. Other clans took off for Canada posing like wet dogs in front of Niagara Falls, or down to the tippy tip of Mexico where they were wowed by Mayan ruins.

Save for a few infrequent trips to Mustang Island, every summer like clockwork, our nuclear headed to Schlitterbahn for a day. When my brother and I were old enough to chaperone ourselves, the day went something like this: Mom and Dad would set up at a picnic table somewhere, happily applying a perforated wristband of “Splash Cash,” the coin of the Shlitter-realm (now doled out in credit card form). Then they just let us go forth, to tube to our hearts' content. We had to check in at the picnic table every three hours or so to ensure we weren't 1) dead 2) arrested, again, or 3) too badly sunburned … in that exact order. Sun-drunk and schlittfaced we'd ride home, and then head straight to bed.

I remember the world being a less exciting place on the days after a Schlitterbahn trip.

On a recent trip back, I was overwhelmed with a host of sense memories of the place.

Schlitterbahn was built piecemeal – it began in 1979 with what we regulars know as "the Bahn," the west end or old-school part of the park, later growing a few more sections to the east of New Braunfels' Landa Park – and so it needs to be admired for its nooks and crannies.

The place sprawls to such an extent that I'm still discovering unused architectural dead ends and corners of the old park. Disjunctive is a word: Here, a circa 1990s nod to Boogie-boarding where 'tweens and over-zealous adults (mostly male) can peacock their balancing ("surfing") skills on an eternal fake wave… There, a more recent (and borderline un-okay) attempt to incorporate animatronics into a Congo-themed river expedition replete with mask-wearing “natives.” (Who greenlit that?)

Teenagers rove in gangs and adults hold hands with their sweeties (heads lolled back and bodies splayed out meandering on one of the park's many lazy rivers like some precious sacrifice served up on an inner tube). Slides ramble through buildings creating echo chambers of rushing water and kidscream; they span the length of parks and get repainted only on occasion. Lifeguards – local high school and college kids – run the affective gamut from intensely bored to cheery and talkative. I feel for them: They're often stuck – literally, ass-in-water for hours – saving the tube-bound from inevitable whirlpools of stagnation, slaves to their rotation schedules craftily written on Popsicle sticks.

In the one of the kids' areas there's a beer-stein slide, a charming holdover from when the park was more explicitly Texas-Germanic themed. Those same stein-sliding kids line up jonesing for funnel cakes – tumbleweeds of fried dough whose crispy exteriors are all-too-often made soggy by still-wet fingers behaving more like vulture beaks than Homo sapiens' digits. Compellingly complementary smells: coconut-scented sunscreen and black rubber inner tubes. Take that to the bank, Yankee Candle Company, or, you know, not.

The sweet and cool Comal is the source feeding the vast and complicated waterworks of Schlitterbahn, and this waterpark owes this most special of rivers a great debt.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Classic Commercial from Schlitterbahn Waterparks on Vimeo.

As in my childhood, coming back from Schlitterbahn I noticed three things: the light blistering on my feet from hot concrete, a persistent tiring ache shooting through my body, and an impending sense of fear of an inevitable hum-drum tomorrow.

Read more Summer Fun stories at The Austin Chronicle’s Summer Fun issue is on stands Thursday, May 16.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Summer Fun
Summer Fun: Conquering the Coastal Bend
Summer Fun: Conquering the Coastal Bend
Corpus Christi bike race bookends the end of summer

Carmen Rising, Aug. 30, 2014

Summer Fun: Boogie Like a Boss at the Bahn
Summer Fun: Boogie Like a Boss at the Bahn
We rode the wave for science, and you can too.

David Estlund, June 10, 2013

More by Andy Campbell
Gay Place Top 10s: IIIII-dentity!
Gay Place Top 10s: IIIII-dentity!
It was the year that was.

Jan. 1, 2016

Houston Prop 1 FAIL
Houston Prop 1 FAIL
In the wake of HERO's overturn, Houston's vulnerable left vulnerable

Nov. 4, 2015


Summer Fun, Schlitterbahn, bahn, waterslides, New Braunfels, slides, Comal River

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle