“Everything was moving in slow motion.” My toddler’s waterslide slip-up was a day I’ll never forget.

The kid’s water slide at Plantation Island resort in Fiji looked relatively tame. Despite this, I rejected my one-year-old’s pleas as he pointed and tugged at my hand.

It would take five days of careful due diligence before we stood at the top of that slide and gazed at the first hairpin bend. Déjà vu and dread overwhelmed me as I dragged the little guy back past the line of delirious infants and towards relative safety.

June 23, 2017 in Oahu, Hawaii had been etched into my memory forever.

It was on that day and from the halfway point of the Sheraton Waikiki’s major water slide that I let out a bloodcurdling scream: “No, don’t let him go, please stop, he won’t make it, noooooo.”

Back in those days, we were a happy family of three, with our only child displaying a limited vocabulary but abundance of confidence.

His favourite word was “poolpoolpool” as if the singular version did not adequately portray his enthusiasm.

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Video via MMC

My wife and I had affectionately nicknamed him the Michelin Man. Our little Usain Bolt was protected from an imminent 100 metre dash into the poolpoolpool by numerous flotation devices.

For those not familiar with the infamous automobile mascot, he is a man made of a pile of tyres.

Every day we went through the same ritual. I would be escorted up the long stairway surrounded by beautiful natural stone to the water slide entrance. Our Michelin Man would be checked against the height stick and fall short.


The lifeguard would wink and say, “maybe next time champ.”

The experienced water slide patroller was being kind. They took their trade seriously in the Sheraton pool area!

Being 50cm short of conquering the stick, it would only be “next time” if we flew home immediately and came back in 2020.

On the last day in Hawaii we walked the familiar steps to accept our familiar rejection. The stick was nowhere to be seen as a young pimply kid greeted us with new qualification criteria.

We were granted entry to the jaws of one of the most serious hotel water slides in Hawaii on the provision that we went solo. The rookie lifeguard was adamant on this ruling and completely disregarded the precedent from his more knowledgeable peers.

I had a tough decision to make…pretend we’d been rejected again or decide on the order in which we’d tackle this beast.

The joy on my son’s face was evident. It felt like a rite of passage from babyhood to becoming a fully-fledged toddler!

I would slide first.

By the second corner, I’d lost the feeling in my stomach as I was propelled forward at blazing speed. Of more concern was the fact I was half submerged in the gushing water and barely able to keep myself upright.

I was encapsulated by both the slide’s plastic casing and sheer horror, as I started to scream and claw at the third bend to slow down.

By the fifth corner I was barely conscious as a combination of adrenaline and disbelief overcame me. As described post-event by concerned onlookers, I was shrieking incoherently as I hit the water with the force of a jet engine.

When I surfaced it hit me like a sledgehammer… it was too late! The novice lifeguard had explained upon departure that he would release my baby boy when I was halfway through my slide.

It felt like everything was moving in slow motion. At the age of 22 months, I’d sent the apple of our eye on an expedition that resembled the Congo River Rapids.

I could only hope that he’d float; just like you’d expect from a mascot made of inflatable tyres.

Brad and his Michelin Man. Image: Supplied.

When my boy came into view he was navigating the final bend. It was the most violent, and threw him from semi-upright into a head-first position.

He hit the water and didn’t penetrate, skidding and skipping across the pool surface like a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

As I rushed forward to cushion him, the infant missile crashed into my sternum like it was a predetermined target.

Nevertheless, he made it.

The parental error in Hawaii had left me permanently rattled as I again scaled the steps to the slide in Fiji. Without a lifeguard in sight and considering it was the last day, I pushed over the ledge with our one-year-old positioned eagerly on my lap.

The Michelin Man was cheering on from the pool deck below. Now two years older, he was undeterred and happy. Just like he was back on June 23, 2017 after a cuddle and an ice cream.

This article originally appeared on the blog Wandering Ocean Eyes and has been republished with full permission.

You can see more from Brad and his family's adventures on Instagram: @wanderingoceaneyes

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