Jack Payne, the 24-year-old backflipping YouTuber with nearly 2 million subscribers, runs across his backyard lawn, jumps onto an inflatable white unicorn, and slides across his AirTrack into a swimming pool. It’s raining, so the pool float glides easily across the vinyl-coated double-wall fabric (imagine a bounce house) before Payne sails onto the water and pumps his fist with the triumph of a bull rider.
Dutch 23-year-old world traveler Jesse Heffels and friends take a more traditional path: the arms-forward belly slide. Armed with a loaded squirt gun of dish soap, they hose their track down with water and then spray the suds. Two young men stand spaced out on the AirTrack waiting. Then, as the slippery projectile that is Heffels’ body rockets forward onto the mat, each guy jumps up and successfully lands a backflip without wrecking Heffels’ slide. But don’t try this at home.
The part to try at home is everything but the backflips.
The traditional Slip ’N Slide hails from a 1960s front yard in Lakewood, Calif. As the story goes, a dad accidentally invented it after watching his kid turn the hose on and try to slide down a painted concrete driveway. Ouch!
The dad, Robert Carrier, came up with a better idea and brought home a 50-foot piece of waterproof fabric. Riding that impromptu slide proved to be such fun that Carrier soon filed for a patent, partnered with toy company Wham-O (founded in South Pasadena by USC grads), and the release, advertised as a “magic surface” that “makes you go like a jet,” was an overnight success. However, Slip ’N Slide has an official age limit of 12.
Enter AirTrack: European-made, beloved by gymnasts and stunt performers, and good for all ages. You may have seen older AirTracks like a bounce house that require a noisy blower to always be on. Not these. The new generation tracks are airtight, waterproof, inflate in one minute, and have become much less expensive than they used to be. AirTrack’s new home line is priced from $199 and sold on Amazon. For Slip ’N Slide–type rides, consider tracks that are 13-feet long ($299) and up. The 4-inch-high air pocket protects amazingly well from injuries. (Just consult Heffels’ YouTube channel for proof.)
Now run, slide, and enjoy the backyard accessory of the summer. airtrackus.com —Jennifer Ashton Ryan