Dom Joly: Water toys have got blown up out of all proportion


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The Independent Online

This year, on my annual Canadian lakeside holiday, I'm on Lake Rosseau, one of the three connecting lakes – the others being Muskoka and Joseph – that I fell in love with 10 years ago and have been summering in ever since. We have driven up from Toronto in a rented enormo-car, which is parked and scarecely used again, as we go everywhere by speedboat. For three weeks, our life becomes water-based, with the car used only to transport the various inflatable toys we have bought over the years. Inflatables are quite an industry up here – every cottage has its own assortment bobbing up and down in front.

When I first started coming here, there was a limited variety. Posh cottages would have huge yellow floating trampolines and a couple of doughnut rings that could be dragged behind a boat. My first purchase was an AquaGlide, from a company where I've now spent so much money that I should be on the board. It's a large inflatable platform that you can either moor offshore like a little island or tow behind the boat.

My kids love it. In fact, they love it so much that I've had to buy three of them over the years as they keep getting torn or punctured beyond repair.

Then, AquaGlide brought out an inflatable slide that attached to the platform. It was another huge hit with the kids, and our shoreline was starting to look like a floating shanty town. Finally, I purchased a Sea-Doo, a sort of inflatable sofa with three seats that you can pull behind the boat while keeping your kids in relative safety. The choice of things to drag behind your boat is now insane: one-, two- and three-man rockets, sleds, bananas... the choice is endless.

This year, there are some new buoys on the block and things have really moved on. For a thousand dollars, you can purchase the Barf Ball,a huge see-through hollow sphere that your child climbs into and then tumbles about in like some limp rag as you drag them behind the boat at high speed. But it looks more dangerous than a summer holiday in central Libya and I can't see too many takers for it.

The big one this year is the Iceberg, an enormous inflatable mountain about 25ft high, with what looks like a climbing wall on one side and a flat wall on the other, so your child can hurl him/herself off it having reached the summit. It's quite a piece of pneumatic engineering and I thought that it would only be found in the huge water park at Clevelands House, a hotel over the lake from us.

That was until I zoomed past Millionaires' Row, a series of cottages so grand that they really can't be called cottages any more, being more like the Kennedy compound in Kennebunkport. There were three Icebergs proudly floating offshore, with some of Canada's most spoilt children clambering up the sides.

Most people up here already have huge boathouses that sit on the lake, serving as secondary buildings, and it won't be long until someone comes up with an inflatable cottage that you simply deflate during the long harsh winters before blowing it up for the summer. This would at least be far preferable to the other sort of blowing-up of holiday homes, seen in places such as Corsica, where certain local people resent the presence of rich second homeowners and occasionally take violent action.

My kids have startd learning to water-ski. Hopefully, if this is a hit, we can reduce our pneumatic annual luggage and get a more sensibly sized vehicle to bring us here next year. One can only dream.