This special class teaches basic adventure trekking and wetland hiking. It consists of several modules, the first being a simple introduction while hiking through the park to selected water features.
When they told me to teach this, I had no idea what an aqua hiking lesson was all about. Maybe it is to hiking what aquarobics is to aerobics, like going into the pool in your hiking kit. Anyway, I'm keen on hiking, especially in the rain, so how hard could it be?
I got dressed in my lifeguard uniform, long sleeve top, shorts, and those long nylon pants. Normally I prefer cargo pants when going on a wet hike, but this outfit should do for now. Just to be on the safe side, I brought my green rain poncho along. Always have that ready.
Andy was already at the shop. He said I should use the shop's display to show them what good equipment looks like. If they buy anything, I would be paid a commission.
"After you make sure they are properly kitted out and wear clean shoes, take them on a hike through the park, starting at the waterfall. Then use the shallow pool as a river crossing, the wave pool for coastal traversing, and so on."
"Got it," I replied, "you want me to give them a fun introduction into all weather hiking, survival swimming, make them feel welcome and enjoy a lot of wet fun."
"Yes, that's it to begin with. And put your poncho on to look the part. Here they come."
A small group of happy sports students walked over, eager for a wet and wild adventure. Most were dressed in cheap PVC ponchos over tracksuits or jogging suits. A few showed up just in jeans and hoodie, no rainwear. Clearly there was room for improvement in functionality.
"Are you ready to get wet?" I asked and they replied with a loud cheer.
I outlined the activities of this course and explained how clothes and equipment work on a wet hike. Form follows function, not the other way round.
They asked about a lot of details and were surprised to learn
that PVC ponchos might rip or tear more quickly in rough terrain or under waterfalls.
I put on my nylon hiking poncho to set a good example.
Then we headed into the shop to see what hiking equipment was available. We looked at a variety of kit and they asked many questions, like what to wear when and where, and how easy it is to swim in the different outfits.
"Do we need rainwear for this trip?" ask one of the students in jeans hoodie.
"Cotton can chill you out a bit. If you want to wear jeans and hoodie, than a hiking cape or poncho would be a good choice." I explaned.
Anoraks and ponchos were very popular with this group. Most of them bought some new kit for our hike through the waterpark. The jeans and hoodie hikers all got anoraks, ponchos or hiking capes to look the part.
It was time to head out into the park and get them all wet in their new kit. We first went under the waterfall to see how waterproof our clothes were. I suggested they put their hoods up as we stepped into the splash zone.
After the first deluge we were all still a bit dry inside our ponchos, but after a few more deluges with the hoods down, we were soaked through and loving it. Some took their ponchos off for a few flushes to really get wet, then put them back on.
I smiled when I noticed that someone I've seen before had smuggled himself into this group, after he had bought a blue nylon hiking cape. Cheeky monkey. He obviously was keen to try out more new clothes in the water.
"Wait a moment," I asked, "were you one of the guys who made me go into the pool with all my kit on, just to teach you how to swim in clothes?
"Yes, that was my idea. We sure got you wet! Cool, eh? My name is Pierre, remember? I brought those newbies to the park. How do you like my new hiking cape?"
"Suits you really well, looks good." I replied with a smile. Indeed he looked really cute in this wet rain cape.
After he got totally drenched in another deluge, I asked him what he liked best about this park.
"Well, the rides are totally rad," he said with a big smile, "but the best is that you can wear lots of clothes in the water. Way cool."
"Yes, I like that too. It's part of the job requirement here."
"Wow, really?" he gasped with amazement as we got soaked again in the waterfall. He seemed to be fascinated by my wet uniform and poncho, couldn't keep his hands off it.
"Is this what you have to wear all day long and when you go into the water?"
"Yes, lifeguards and pool staff have to be visible at all times."
Next we sloshed over to the shallow teaching pool for river crossing practice. The skill is to carefully wade across waist deep water whilst keeping the poncho under control.
We all practised how to secure a poncho or hiking rain cape, so it can't go over our head in the wrong moment. This was going to be an issue later in the wave pool. A strap between the legs is fitted for exactly this purpose. Cheap PVC ponchos have no such feature. About a third of the group quickly ran to the shop to upgrade.
While we waited for them we all ducked under a few times and enjoyed swimming around
in our hiking clothes.
Our tracksuits and jogging suits stayed mostly put when we moved,
but the ponchos and rain capes had a mind of they own, floating around.
Great fun experience.
The wave pool with the shallow beach gave us the most realistic experience of coastal hiking. The rocks on the side where interesting to climb over with the waves splashing us.
We practised how to tie up a poncho or rain cape around the waist to make it shorter for hiking steep hills or rough terrain. You can't do that with cheap PVC ponchos and two team members managed to rip them on the rocks. They quickly ran off to the shop while we got splashed by the waves at the breakwater and relaxed in the shallow water during the quiet times.
When they came back, I made sure all had the ponchos or rain capes properly secured and we went in to play in the waves. These baggy clothes proved quite a challenge in the waves, which was huge fun for everyone.
Finishing off we went into the deep pool for a bit of swimming practice. The sports students learned how swimming in clothes doubles their VO2Max, and how a poncho hugs your body when you swim at speed. This surprised most of them.
They found it interesting what a difference swimming fully clothed makes compared to just swimwear. It was much heavier and exhausting, but felt surprisingly good.
Finally we hopped into the large jacuzzi to relax, talk, and watch the air bubbles billow up our clothes, especially the ponchos and rain capes. We talked a for quite a while about wet hiking, equipment and future training plans here at the water park.
The boys in jeans and hoodies noted how much the waterproof clothes kept them warm.
Others said that this waterpark excursion was a lot of fun.
After they left I headed back to the staff room to rinse all the hiking clothes under the shower.