SINGAPORE - If you have ever laughed at contestants on obstacle course game shows Wipeout, water park HydroDash at Sentosa will make you eat humble pie.
Well, I used to be one of those people. Smugly spread-eagled on the sofa before the TV, the round and bouncy obstacles on the small screen seemed unintimidating. To an armchair spectator, the jumps look easy.
Even on the ground at Palawan Beach, the bright yellow, blue and green inflatable obstacles appear benign, like bouncy castles at a children's party.
But one step onto the slick platform and all the conceit goes out the window.
Even the inflatable walkway leading to the course is a challenge. I struggle to gain a firm footing and fall to my knees more than once. By the time I have got the hang of it - mere walking, mind you - it is time to take on the first obstacle.
The park is loosely divided into four quadrants, including one for children aged five and six.
Launched in March and reopened in July after the circuit breaker, it is designed to take up to 220 people at any one time, but currently has a 50-person limit. When The Sunday Times visited on a weekday afternoon, about 25 people were on the course, most of them children.
Indeed, on this floating playground, it is the kids who reign supreme.
Gearing up for the first obstacle, I attempt a running start to leap between logs spaced half a metre apart. I slip and land on my belly, narrowly avoiding a faceplant. Since I am already horizontal, I belly crawl across the logs, much to the amusement of an eight-year-old.
"You mean you don't know how to do this?" he teases, leaping across effortlessly.
The precocious, gap-toothed boy becomes my unofficial guide, alternately shaming and goading me on.
"Are you a child or an adult?" he asks when I hesitate atop a tall slide. Not one to back down from a challenge, his niggling is the push I need.
At a swinging obstacle, he demonstrates the jump, then turns around to hand me the bar.
"Swing your legs across!" he exhorts. I land in the water anyway.
Nothing is bruised except my pride. A step-up system, built into the course, makes it easy for adult-sized legs to clamber back up. Plenty of lifeguards are on hand to scoop up little ones if needed. And life jackets, which all participants must wear, keep me afloat as I bob between platforms.
Just as well, as the course is designed so that even the most dexterous must endure the indignity of a spill or two.
Perhaps, our bodies have been taught caution and fear, in the process of growing up, to protect ourselves against injury. So it feels wonderfully freeing to relinquish control, give in to gravity, and enjoy the freedom of falling.
When I collect my valuables at the counter afterwards - the park has a storage service for mobile phones and wallets, while clothes and towels can be left on the beach - the woman at the counter smiles knowingly at my exhaustion.
Long-neglected muscles will be sore the next day. But I feel surprisingly joyful. Amid a stressful year, good, old-fashioned playtime has been an unexpected salve.
Pro tip: Book a slot in the late afternoon if you can, when the heat of midday has subsided. For adults, an hour is plenty.