Make Like a Dolphin at Summer Waves Water Park

We felt fortunate and blessed when Summer Waves Water Park was built on Jekyll Island. Fortunate because it's the perfect venue to drop off the kids for a day or a half-day of fun so we adults could get a little respite (which in our case usually resulted in a battery-charging afternoon snooze).

Blessed because Summer Waves is a great place for the whole family to escape the heat of summer and cool off in the millions of gallons of water flowing, splashing, and sparkling within their many water-based attractions.

Summer Waves was built on 11 acres off South Riverview Drive. I'm not a water park aficionado, but I understand it's on the smaller side for water parks.

Small is relative, however. I've always found that there's plenty of room to find and set up a "base of operations" spot for the family. Usually in the shade, a spot to relax while periodically planning commando raids with my boys on the surrounding water features.

If your kids like water-play, there's plenty to do at Summer Waves. Make your reservations by calling (916)635-2074.

Grab a tube and head for the Frantic Atlantic Wave Pool. If you've never experienced a wave pool, it's kind of like a giant swimming pool designed to create artificial waves.

Natural ocean waves are created by the wind pushing molecules of water together to create swells. Wave pools use various means to duplicate this effect, like air blowers, paddles, or water-displacing plungers.

These techniques are good for creating small waves; for the larger waves needed to body surf, wave pools use huge volumes of water collected in reservoirs. When the reservoir fills, a valve releases the stored water volume into the main pool. The sudden influx of this stored water volume pushes more water before it, creating the wave. As the pool shallows (just like the ocean at the beach) the wave breaks.

Summer Waves Frantic Atlantic uses 500,000 gallons of water to create waves from 2' to 4' high. Just jump on a float, lay back, and enjoy the ride!

If you're up for a drenching, dive into the Splash Zone. Stand under Downpour, a giant bucket that dumps thousands of gallons of water on the folks below it.

Or face off against your kids in a giant water gun fight, utilizing swivel mounted water guns to spray in all directions.

One of my favorite Summer Waves attractions is the Pirate's Passage Water Slide. Five stories high, this "sled ride" type water slide is a totally enclosed tube with 3 humps along it's length. You have to climb a towering stairway to get to the "launch pad", where the lifeguard gives you a tube. Then it's time to gather your courage and take a giant leap of faith.

So jump already! Once you've committed, it's too late to turn back. Gravity has you in it's grip, and you zip down the tube in the dark, screaming all the way (well, I did, anyway).

Gathering speed, you rocket down the Pirates Passage before shooting out the bottom into a cool, cushioning pool - ready for another blast down the slide. Aarrggg, mates!

Kids must be at least 48" tall to brave the Pirates Passage. If not, though, there are two other slide attractions they can challenge.

First - Nature's Revenge! Two slides make up this attraction: Hurricane and Tornado. Jump into their mouths and zip 330' down their twisting, turning lengths before splashing into a receiving pool at the end. Kids 42" or taller can ride these super fun slides.

Or...take on Force 3! This combination of 3 slides will give kids 42" or taller a watery workout. They can ride Thunder, a fully enclosed spiral slide that snakes around for 150'. Or Lightning, where you fall 32' into a dark abyss!

For smaller kids, there's Flash Floods, a more gentle slide that utilizes double tubes floating serenely along a twisting pathway.

For kids under 48", the shallow Kiddie Pool provides lots of water-play opportunities. Two kiddie slides, water falls, and other watery play features provide hours of fun for the younger set.

Turtle Creek is the water park's lazy river, a cooling 3 mph tube float. Martha and I love this - just lay back on a tube, drift along the landscaped river channel, and leave your troubles behind. I could do this all day!

Summer Waves stages a charity event - the Turtle Race (sort of like rubber Duck Races elsewhere) which utilizes the Turtle Creek lazy river. You buy a rubber Turtle; they're "released" into Turtle Creek; and may the fastest turtle win!

During the year, Summer Waves sponsors several special events. As usual, I recommend calling the park ahead of time to make sure these events are still ongoing.

On Mother's Day, Mom's get in free.

They have a Rock Band Competition that starts opening day and continues every Saturday, to finish in a Battle of the Rock Band Competition at summer's end.

And season pass holders are honored twice during the season, when the park is reserved for just them from 4:00 to 8:00 pm.

Season passes provide unlimited admission throughout the season. Your season pass won't let you into after-hours events, however, but you get another benefit - free admission to the Jekyll Island Mini-golf. You can purchase season passes for individuals on up to a family of five.

Summer Waves is open every day through August 10th, when they go on a weekends-only schedule through the 2nd week of September.

General Admission is $19.95 for folks over 4' tall. Under 4'? Junior Admission applies. You get in for $15.95. If you're 3' and under, you get in free - lucky dog! Seniors 60 or overpay $10.95. They offer a Night Splash where they let folks in for $11.95 after 3:00 pm Monday through Friday (on Saturday & Sunday it's $13.95).

Here's a money-saving option: buy a two-day ticket. For $26.95 you get two days of Summer Waves fun. The second ticket has to be used within 5 days of the first or it expires, so plan accordingly.

And here's a helpful tip: call ahead to see if any large groups are scheduled to use the park when you want to go. The park can become crowded quickly when you have to share it with large groups.

Advance reservations are required for Groups. Park management defines "Groups" as a minimum of 20 people. Groups get special deals, like discount rates, coupons for discounts at Larry's Giant Subs (Summer Wave's on-site sandwich shop), and catering for groups of 50 or more.

Group rates: from 20 to 99 eager-beavers - $15.00/head; from 100 to 249 soon-to-be-wetheads - $14.00/head; from 250 to 499 (now that's a crowd!) - $13.00/head; over $500 (you've really got a large family there!) - $12.00/head. Of course, 3 years and younger are free. Please CALL AHEAD to make sure these prices are still viable!

Groups should arrive together. Designate one person to pay for the whole group at the Group Sales Window. Advance reservations are required, and you should let Summer Waves know how many will be in your group at least 72 hours prior to your visit. No deposit is required, and one chaperon per 50 folks will get in free.

Package Deals:

Summer Waves offers a Birthday Party Package for $15.00/head with a minimum of 12 guests (birthday kid gets a free ticket for a future admission). They supply a balloon bouquet, goodie bags for the kids, and 10% off any single item in Summer Wave's Surf Shop.

A few Birthday Package options: 1) get Larry's Giant Subs for $6.95, or...2) get ice cream coupons for $3.00/person.

And here's another hot tip: be on the look out for Dolly the Dolphin, Summer Wave's mascot. She'll be somewhere working the crowd, and you should be able to collar her for a photo-op with your youngsters.

Like most venues of this nature, the water park has certain rules their guests should abide by for their own safety.

Kids 10 and under must be accompanied by an adult. They don't allow outside food or drink, except for bottled water and baby food. Also, don't bring your personal flotation device or you'll have to leave it outside.

No pets allowed, except for guide dogs. And you can't wear footwear, eye glasses, or hats, headbands, or scarfs on the slides (they provide lockers for personal items - small lockers for $10.00, large for $13.00, and you get $5.00 back when you return the key).

Jumping and diving is a no-no. Don't wear denim shorts with rivets (or anything with rivets), or revealing swimwear, or clothes with questionable slogans. Of course, no alcohol, drugs, or smoking.

If you're a non-swimmer or have small children, life jackets can be had for no charge.

Sometimes weather comes into play on the coast. Summer Waves reserves the right to close park attractions when bad weather strikes. They issue rain checks if attractions are closed for one continuous hour, but park admission is non-refundable, so check the weather before you come - and don't be surprised if a sudden unforeseen thunderstorm crops up.

If you need to leave the park for any reason, just get your hand stamped, and you can return that day with no charge.

Any of these rules could change at any time, so be sure to check with Summer Waves for their current policies.

All park lifeguards are certified in lifeguard training by the Red Cross and know CPR and first aid.

There's a first aid station located close to the entrance, with an EMT on-staff. You can also find the lost-and-found station at the entrance.

Plan your trip and arrive early, 'cause the early bird gets the best parking space and the best "base of operation" spots inside the park.

Statistics say that car keys are the item most often lost inside the park, with eye glasses being a close second. They advise you bring an extra set of keys, and use a strap on your glasses to keep up with them.

And don't just bring sun screen - use it. If you forget (like we've done in the past), you can buy it at the Surf Shop (along with other souvenirs). Drink plenty of water and stay cool! Wear water shoes on the hot walkways to avoid the "hot foot".

If you want to beat the heat, Summer Waves is the perfect oasis for cooling off in the water. You can make reservations by calling (916)635-2074.

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