By Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Times Staff Writer
The cluster of inflatable slides, trampolines and chill-out loungers floating offshore behind the TradeWinds looks like a water playground, and it is if you are under the age of 11 or have arms of steel.
We took a spin through the new Splash Island Water Park behind the resort in St. Pete Beach. The hotel added the 15,750-square-foot floating inflatable water park this spring within the swim zone off the beach at the TradeWinds Island Grand. It's like a bookend to the hotel's other inflatable attraction, the three-story slippery slide on the beach.
The slide — $4 per ride or $37 for an unlimited pass — is easy to climb and a high-speed blast. The water park, $25 an hour, seems like a better bargain, but it ended up being a lot more work.
First, required life jackets make you feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as you bob 60 feet off the resort's sandy shoreline to reach the play areas. When you do reach them, you don't have the ocean floor to stand on, so it's all up to those biceps to get up on the slides, trampolines and splash mats.
The kids made a beeline for the climbing slides and the bounce cave. The adults tried them all at least once, but after about 20 minutes the grownups were bobbing in the water doing hoisting duty or stationed on a splash mat, pulling people out of the water Titanic-finale style.
Ah, to be young. A pack of grade-school-age kids didn't let up for most of the hour. They were jumping from the floating trampoline to the climbing slide to the triangle-shaped bounce cave created by the big slide.
There are oversized loungers "for kicking back and relaxing," but when you're encased in a life jacket, you feel like a Weeble trying to lie back and relax. The Rockit — a huge, inflatable island, with seating for four and room for more to rock and roll on the water — wasn't set up on the day we visited because of issues with the anchor, but we've seen it in action and it does look like fun.
When you are walking down one of the country's most beautiful beaches, it seems odd that we need all these chutes and ladders to entertain the kids on the beach. Isn't the beach entertainment enough? Judging by the brisk business that day, I suppose not.