By: Cassady Rosenblum
Leigh Rich from Long Beach Island, New York, shattered a Guinness World Record July 1 when she flung herself down a 2,021 foot water slide erected at Canaan Valley Ski Resort. Rich, a slight woman who stood shivering in a wetsuit after her run, said she got up to speeds of 10 miles per hour, and that “You would think a heavier person would go faster. Maybe I have better aerodynamics.” The world record, however, did not go to Rich, but to Natural Light Beer, which sponsored the event to promote their new America-themed cans, and brought Rich with them as a team member– much to the disappointment of the gathered spectators who were under the impression they would have the chance to compete for glory, not just ride the slide for fun.
Nevertheless, spirits were high as visitors munched free hotdogs and lathered inner tubes with Dawn soap, which event staff also squirted into water cannons. “It breaks the surface tension of the water,” explained Bob Metzger, Captain of the Canaan Valley Fire Department. A jar of lard appeared on the premises, then disappeared, as did talks of baby oil. “The Department of Environmental Protection might not like a bunch of baby oil in their water,” observed Captain Metzger, laughing. “Dawn is for baby ducks. If it’s good enough for ducks it’s good enough for the slip-n-slide.”
If it hadn’t been for the Canaan Valley Fire Department, the Guinness World Record for longest slip-n-slide might still belong to the Kingdom of Jordan, which set the previous record in 2015 in a bid of their own to attract tourists. When the Natural Light Beer crew arrived the previous day to begin testing the slide, they discovered that the water pumps which normally power the snowblowers at the ski resort could not produce enough water to give Rich a continuous slip–a required element according to the Guinness World Records rules. With the addition of one fire truck hose, however, conditions improved markedly. “A fine bit of silliness,” volunteer fireman Chris Clarke summarized the scene.
So silly, in fact, that when Resort Recreation Manager Dave Vance first got a voicemail from Natural Light Beer inquiring about the possibility of a slip-n-slide world record attempt in Canaan Valley, his first reaction was to dismiss it. “This doesn’t sound legit,” Vance recalled he said. But after talking it over with Sam England, General Manager of Canaan Valley Resort, they decided that the event would be a great way to create buzz about Canaan. “It’s about energy, it’s about excitement,” England said. “It’s about stuff going on at Canaan.”
According to representatives from Natural Light Beer, the event attracted about a 100 visitors, most of whom were local, but a few of whom came from out of state. Ron Taylor, sporting a Natural Light cowboy hat and sunglasses, said he had traveled from Arlington, Virginia, and has been coming to Canaan Valley “since the eighties.” Connor Simpson, a lacrosse coach in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, said he’d found out about the event from his grandparents, Dan Simpson and Eileen Simpson, who host a Fourth of July celebration at their vacation home in Canaan Valley every year.
If there was a crescendo of the day, it came around 1:45 p.m., when the Sheriff of Tucker County, Jake Kopec, and his deputy, Taylor Zirk, launched themselves down the mountain wearing American flag swim trunks, Kopec’s considerably shorter than Zirk’s. As Kopec toweled off by his truck, a mother from Bridgeport looked on approvingly. “Your sheriff goes down slip-n-slides?” she marveled aloud. “That makes me want to move to this county!”