You can get some serious hangtime in St. Louis County these days.
The tallest inflatable water slide in the Midwest is four stories high, with a roller-coaster of a drop that sends riders airborne before they tumble to a giant, bouncy airbag. If you're young enough, or daredevil enough, to find that appealing, you'd best get to St. Louis County — Aloha Mini Golf and Shave Ice (13502 Big Bend Boulevard, Valley Park; 314-330-4869) is offering access for just $5/hour this weekend. There's no guarantee that deal will stick going forward once word gets out about this thing.
"This thing" is, more precisely, the Aloha Thunder, and it's the brain child of Pete Kreamer, who has owned Aloha Mini Golf and Shave Ice since 2010. Kreamer says he was vacationing in Myrtle Beach when he had an epiphany: Mini golf is good and all, but he needed a water feature. In Myrtle Beach, the ocean fills that role, but Kreamer wisely had different plans for his site near St. Louis. "I didn't want standing water," he says. He wanted to keep people active, to give them a thrill.
And so Kreamer has spent the summer installing, permitting and painstakingly testing the 42-foot marvel, created by a company in Toronto. He says there's nothing else like it anywhere other than the two slides the manufacturer has provided to sites in California and Mexico. And his, he boasts, is better than even those: "We're the only one of the three with stairwells on both sides for an emergency exit."
Which, yes, you may well need. While Kreamer promises that the safety is unparalleled — "we've got a bullet-proof operation" — the slide is not for the faint of heart. You have to be thirteen to try it and hit certain height and weight marks. Even then, he says, a teenaged kid got to the top the other day and fled in panic.
"He came right back down," Kreamer says. "I'm prepared for the coolest guy in the group to say, 'Holy crap, I can't do this.'"
But Kreamer is also proof that it just might be the ride of your life. During the process of getting approval to open by St. Louis County, he says, he was the only person allowed to ride the Aloha Thunder, and so he took many, many trips up and then flying over and down — no small feat for a 48-year-old.
The four-second journey down, he says, is simply amazing.
"You're going straight down, and it catches you, then it throws you straight back up in the air," he says. "The next thing you know, you're floating" — a sensation he compares to Wile E. Coyote before he realizes he's airborne. "This is a very, very serious slide."
Aloha quietly opened the slide to riders a few weeks ago. Missing almost all of the peak summer season wasn't by design — it took months for Kreamer to feel certain everything was good, the staff was fully trained, and he was ready. But now, after a few weeks of soft opening, he's ready for anyone who's ready to slide (who meets the height, weight and age requirements, of course).
"We spent two and a half months testing and testing this thing," he says. "But we knew getting it done right was going to be critical."
Before next summer, Kreamer also plans to install a host of smaller, bouncy-house style slides more suitable for youngsters. But for now, if you're up for a huge rush, the time is right to come take a turn.
"It's the crown jewel of water slides," he promises. And 'fraidy cats, it's clear, need not get in line.
For more info, see the Aloha Thunder website
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at email@example.com