The Leap of Faith at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai is a water slide located at the resort’s in-house water park, Aquaventure. It is at a height of about sixty feet, almost vertical in angle thus resulting in a free fall, and finds itself a spot in one of the world’s scariest water slides.
On an average, extreme and adventure sport is something that will elicit misgivings, yet be pursued with excitement. The entire logic of it lies on a bedrock of fear, danger and thrill. Watching somebody bungee jump in crystal, blue water excites feelings of thrill and a desire for adventure, for we believe that it is an escape from the mundane realities of life, somehow more liberating in nature than any other experience we might have. It is perhaps somewhat similar to breaking the law- it exhilarates, and makes you feel like you’re above the ordinary, the common people, the usual rules and the typical routine. It is revered and dreaded simultaneously, and understood only when its attraction complements its revulsion- it should be only something that only a few can achieve, and you would be in that minority.
The Leap of Faith water slide is situated in a structure which resembles a Mayan temple, immediately bringing to mind viewings of Takeshi’s Castle and the extremely popular Nickelodeon show, Legends of the Hidden Temple. After climbing three flights of stairs, we were greeted with a queue of people waiting to do the Leap of Faith- it will make you leave your stomach behind, I remembered my friend’s dire warning. The screams that accompanied the slide seemed to support his claim, and I was comforted by the long queue of people ahead, which gave me atleast a good twenty-five minutes to watch, observe and then decide if I wanted to go on.
The scene was not very comforting- at the entrance of the slide, we could see only the shady, white tube which would carry us forward, the gushing water that would initiate the slide, and a handlebar just where the slide began, allowing us to get into position without slipping off. Those in the queue watched every single person about to get on the slide- the routine was to get on the tube, lie down while holding the handlebar, cross your legs and arms and then give yourself the final push. It was nerve-wrecking, like waiting to be interviewed for something you really want, as my stomach knotted up and I jumped around in my swimsuit, hoping to let out the anxiousness.
In a queue of about twenty people, six or seven of them backed out as their turn came, laughing nervously and deciding to give up, concluding that it was not their game, stepping aside to let the mighty others take on this seemingly impossible task. One woman lost her balance in front of me: getting on the tube, she slipped on the rushing water and fell with a loud thud, but thankfully her grip on the handlebar was tight, or she would have hurtled down the vertical slide into God knows what.
I grew more and more nervous as I moved ahead, imagining all sorts of scenarios, where I could simply fail to align my body with the open slide, hit my elbow against something and get knocked afar, defy the law of gravity and get stuck at some point or directly crash into the pool below with such force that they would have to shut down the water park. When there were six people to go before me, I seriously contemplated getting out- standards of adventure should not be judged and I should be comfortable in my own skin. If I could not do something, I could not do it and I should just be okay with it, instead of fretting about it. I should know my mind and more importantly,accept my own limitations. But one look at my sixteen-year-old sister and I’d feel dwarfed; scared to her bone, she was still fixed on her resolve to do the slide.
WIth just a couple of people left in front of me, I shut my mind to all thoughts, positive or negative, and zoned myself out; putting my chin up, I refused to think about anything, even as the slide in front of me promised to gulp us all. With my mind almost blank, I stepped onto the tube and heard my instructor carefully- cross your legs, hold the handlebar tight, cross one arm, push yourself with the other, cross the other and make sure your elbows are tucked in. I followed them to the point and ignored the whirring in my mind, giving myself the kick and taking the plunge.
It was splendidly heady- perhaps the entire slide took less than even ten seconds as I almost flew in the air, rushing down at great speed as the water guzzled in my face. It was those two brief seconds when I felt like I was falling, two seconds which left me in control of nothing, and then I felt the slide at my back again,hurtling through the tube into a pool. I landed as smoothly as it was possible, shocked for a moment, expressing my exhilaration to the lifeguard who probably saw this more than a hundred times a day. Yet he smiled at my astonishment, asking if everything was good with a thumbs up. In the next few seconds, everything changed; the water slide seemed like the easiest thing in the world as all the fear was washed out with the water that had rushed through my back. I could do it a hundred times now, or not even bother to do it again; it seemed that easy. One of the toughest slides in the world was suddenly a cakewalk,but the truth was, it was never that difficult to begin with.
For if I came down to subtracting a few things, the situation would have been drastically different. If there was no anticipation, no waiting, no queue, nobody backing out, no intimidating Mayan temple structure and no it will make you leave your stomach behind warning by my friend, in short, no preconceptions and no buildup, perhaps it would have been just like any other slide. Which led me to a very reasonable conclusion.
It is strange, but mostly we fear something because it is supposed to be feared. Fear is a cultural hand-me-down, an unwanted inheritance- our aversion to darkness, our made-up ghosts, and the demons under our beds. It can be seen in the way we treat adventure sports, where the risk is the most important element. It is not the thing which needs to be conquered; what needs to be conquered is our fear of it. It is our fear which makes everything more complicated.
And we must always, always strive to get over our fear- of anything. Of relationships, of commitments, of sport, of speaking while a hundred people listen to you, of embarrassing ourselves, of asking a stupid question, of appearing unseasoned and unfamiliar. But most importantly, we must get over our fear of failure, for it is fear, and only fear, which can ever result in failure.
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