Ido loves me some fun in the sun. We’re quite fortunate here at Smith Mountain Lake, being that our season of frolic often extends into September. If our lake remains an acceptable bath water temperature equivalent (remember, Florida girl here), I’ll happily take a swim during a fall football game half-time. I’ve even experienced an Indian summer when I gazed upon the beginnings of the seasonal foliage color turn as I reclined in my favorite floaty. I’ll share that my preferred flotation device is not one of the trendy humungous inflatables. Please hear me out before you initiate a hate mail storm.

The enormous bright pink flamingos, rainbow unicorns, neon yellow rubber duckies and multi-person uber-rafts that have populated our coves these past few years are super cool. As a matter of fact, the Hubs and I are on our third giant party raft. I’m not disputing that these water toys offer endless enjoyment. However, these contraptions also bring with them a litany of PIA factors: pain in the a$$.

To begin with, don’t even think about purchasing a giganto-float unless you also buy an electric air pump. I don’t care if you have the lung capacity of Michael Phelps; you’re going to need to splurge on a quality pump. I do believe some of the floats come with a hand pump. Trust me, spring for an electric pump. An additional tip: look for an electric pump that works in reverse to also help deflate the float. After spending hours trying to collapse our floating island, the Hubs finally saw the light and invested in a heavy-duty air pump that works in reverse.

This next PIA factor might be more of an issue for those of us in Club 55: there’s just no way to gracefully board these vessels. If you’re going to drag yourself out of the water and up over the sides of a giant float or raft, be prepared to check your ego at the dock, because you’re going to resemble a beached walrus trying to hurl itself back into the surf. I’ve awkwardly displayed my middle-aged backside to pretty much everyone in our cove on multiple occasions. And, ladies, if you’re sporting a two-piece, hold on to that top. We’ve witnessed several bikini malfunctions whilst attempting to come aboard.

There’s also the issue of, no way to put this delicately, peeing. It happens without fail: as soon as you’ve hauled yourself atop that giant floating ostrich, you’re going to need to get rid of those three beers you just consumed. Our multi-person float does have the advantage of a meshed center area where you can sit suspended in the water. One of my besties dubbed it the “sit-n-pee.” It’s a bit of a genius design feature.

If you’re out and about these fall months, and the water’s fine, stop by the dock. You’ll likely find me on my favorite single-person raft, content in my late season chillin’.

Kimberly Dalferes is the author of I Was In Love With a Short Man Once and Magic Fishing Panties. Her humor blog, “The Middle-Aged Cheap Seats,” is online at