The Ingenious Way the Slip ‘N Slide Was Born

When generations converge to make a summertime classic

Slip 'N Slide
A fun summer activity even when you're alone.
Imokurnotok/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / July 3, 2020 3:08 pm

Some summertime activities (at least those in the days before social distancing) involved plenty of complexity: organizing a picnic, playing water polo or learning to surf all come to mind. And, generally, those activities can pay off the time invested in them. But sometimes, summer calls for simpler pleasures, and sliding along a wet surface at absurd speeds certainly fits that bill.

Whether you’re using it in a yard or expanding the concept to a massive scale, the Slip ‘N Slide is a time-honored method of summertime fun. But how exactly did it come about? Who first figured out that the laws of physics could be utilized for warm-weather recreation?

At Smithsonian Magazine, Courtney Sexton ventured into the decades-long history of the Slip ‘n Slide. The Slip ‘N Slide was born in 1960, when a California father named Robert Carrier saw his son using wet concrete to speed along on a summer day. Carrier’s job at a boat manufacturer gave him an idea for a safer version, utilizing Naugahyde.

Carrier filed a patent for the new invention in 1961, and the Slip ‘N Slide was available on store shelves later that year. As Sexton notes, part of the appeal of the Slip ‘N Slide, then and now, was its affordability:

As of 2011, more than 30 million Slip ‘N Slides had been sold, and it won’t be surprising if 2020’s “quarantine summer” sees even higher than usual sales. Daniel Modlin, commerce staff writer for the Daily Beast, recently declared, “I’m getting my Slip ‘N Slide before they’re all sold out, and I recommend you do the same thing.”

Sometimes, the simplest inventions are the ones that catch on the most. The story of the Slip ‘N Slide’s humble origins makes this point tremendously well.

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