Conquering Water and Air at Big Surf Waterpark

You know that feeling when you’re climbing up the stairs to ride the biggest slide at a water park? The heart-racing, blood-pumping, out-of-breath feeling mixed with excitement? That’s the feeling I had as I started my vertical trek up to Zambezi Falls at Big Surf Waterpark at Lake of the Ozarks.

Zambezi Falls at Big Surf.

I’m not usually afraid of heights or any amusement rides for that matter, but dropping four stories on a tube down a half pipe of rushing water intimidated me, to say the least.

I knew I had to conquer this ride; so I sat down on my tube, held my breath, counted to three and took the plunge. I shot down the half-pipe with rocket speed, not sure if my tube was even touching the slide and propelled up to the opposite end.

Looking straight down at the ground and screaming at a pitch that is almost inaudible to human ears, I slid down the opposite side as gravity allowed me to return to solid ground. What did I do after that?  I rode it again, of course!

Zambezi Falls might be the most exhilarating ride in my opinion at Big Surf, but there are plenty of other thrilling water rides as well. But if you aren’t quite the dare devil that I am, there are attractions that are all the fun without the screaming like the activity pool, wave pool and a lazy river.

For smaller children (or myself), Tropical Splash Island is a colorful activity pool filled with tot-sized slides, water-spraying animals and teeter-totters in just six to eighteen inches of water. And hey, I’m not afraid to admit that I love playing under the tipping toucans just as much as the average 3 year-old.


Have a blast fighting off waves at Big Surf in Lake of the Ozarks
Have a blast fighting off waves at Big Surf in Lake of the Ozarks

The wave pool and activity pool are fun for pretty much anyone. I like to sit on my tube and ride the waves or test my balance on the mini water obstacle course. Feel free to race me on the slides, too, I promise not to beat you too badly.

For the adrenaline junkies like myself, try riding the Space Bowl. This ride is the first of its kind in the U.S. and turns from a normal slide into a spinning vortex, while you swirl around and around in a giant bowl before dropping through the hole in the middle into the cool water below.


Big Surf's Space Bowl water slide.
Big Surf’s Space Bowl water slide.

I also recommend taking a lunch break at Surfside Grill inside the park. Be a little daring and order what’s said to be the best burrito at the Lake of the Ozarks – just be sure to wait 30 minutes before getting back in the water!

My favorite way to finish the day at Big Surf is by floating the lazy river. At this point I have ridden every ride multiple times, fought the waves like Mike Tyson and challenged multiple strangers to the obstacle course, so I might even doze off in my tube as the current carries me through the park.

By the end of the day, I can guarantee that you’ll leave the park a littler happier than you were before … and maybe a little more tired and tan. In my opinion, Big Surf Waterpark is worth the trip, so pack up the kids, SPF 50, and your swimsuits and spend the day cooling off in the water under the summer sun.

To learn more about Big Surf Waterpark and plan your trip, check out or

Written by Abbey Theban, intern for the Missouri Division of Tourism. 

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