When Waterbeds were cool

I had a waterbed in the early 80s as a young teen. I always liked it and thought it was comfortable. Two things I didn’t like about it was… if there was a leak you would not know until 2:30 am and on a school night…always. If the heater was either turned down or went out…you would wake up as a human popsicle at…you guessed it… 2:30 am. Nothing ever happened to it at noon on a Saturday.

in the early 1800s. Scottish physician Dr. Neil Arnott devised a water-filled bed to prevent bedsores in invalids.

In 1873, Sir James Paget, of St. Bartholomew Hospital in London, presented the waterbed designed by Dr. Arnott as a treatment and prevention of ulcers, a common condition at this time. Paget found that waterbeds allowed for even pressure distribution over the entire body. The only problem was that you could not regulate the water temperature.

In 1968 Charles Hall presented the waterbed as his Master’s Thesis project to his San Francisco State University design class. While showcasing their work, students rotated through workshops to see each other’s inventions. Once they reached Hall’s project – a vinyl mattress filled with heated water – the class never left. “Everybody just ended up frolicking on the waterbed,” Hall recalls.

Hall’s first waterbed mattress was called ‘the Pleasure Pit’ and it quickly gained popularity with the hippie culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Time Magazine in 1971 about waterbeds. “Playboy Tycoon Hugh Hefner has one–king-size, of course, and covered with Tasmanian opossum. The growing number of manufacturers and distributors, with such appropriate names as Aquarius Products, the Water Works, Innerspace Environments, Joyapeutic Aqua Beds and the Wet Dream, can hardly meet the demand. They have sold more than 15,000 since August.”

Sex always sells… one ad stated. “Two things are better on a waterbed. One of them is sleep.” and “She’ll admire you for your car, she’ll respect you for your position, but she’ll love you for your waterbed.”


By the 80s waterbeds were in the suburbs and gaining in popularity. In 1987, waterbeds had achieved their peak, representing 22 percent of all U.S. mattress sales.

At the end of the 1980s waterbed sales fell off. Some say it was because they were too connected to the 70s that had fallen out of favor (the horror!)… but most think it was because of the maintenance and pain in setting them up and moving them. Also, you had to make sure your floor was braced enough to have one depending on the size and weight of it.

Today you can still buy them but most are designed thinner to hold less water in rolls instead of sleeping on a lake beneath you.

I had mine until I was 20 with plenty of patches but it still held water and me… but I left it behind when I moved.

This egg-shaped one below I would gladly take home now



Keith Moon talks about a waterbed


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “When Waterbeds were cool”

  1. I had a waterbed and loved it. Got in 94, shortly after my divorce, and kept it until 2006. Didn’t have any trouble with leaks with mine, but 2 heaters went out, and trying to sleep on a cold waterbed makes every muscle in your body ache. The “egg” one in picture looks heavenly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have one now… I didn’t really think about it until I wrote it…Oh the egg one is awesome. It has that 70s spaceage look…

      I had leaks because I was young and stupid and would leave pointy objects in bed… It’s like laying on ice when the heater is out

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story and history! From time to time I’ve wondered why no one has them anymore and whatever happened to all those millions of them. I had one for some time in 80s too- my parents split up when I was a teen and since I moved with my mother, I was allowed to get some new furniture. Of course I got a water bed! It looked cool (not as good as that “egg” one though!) with sleek Scandanavian lines in something like teak and had a great bookcase headboard, great for a few books and a speaker on either side. BUT- my heater never worked right. It only warmed it a tiny bit, so I’d have like, two thick blankets under the sheets and it was still often cold to sleep on. If it was still around, I would have considered using the frame but putting a regular mattress in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really wouldn’t mind having one now…they are really comfortable. In the winter it was great having that thing really warm and laying down… but yea if the heater didn’t work right…that would not be fun.

      You can still find them but rarely like the old ones….thinner more practical…sometimes though practical is not as fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I got a water bed around 1999, just out of curiosity, haha. Someone gave me a used frame. I had a heckuva time finding all of the old school components to go in it, but finally had the complete system. I used it for about 5 years and thought it was really comfortable. But when I moved, I didn’t want the hassle of moving it, so that was that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the hassle about them…I loved mine. It supports really well…I would think it would be good for your back…

      The new ones for sale are not the same.


      1. It was…I would have to be careful or i would wake up sweating… on the other extreme…turn it down too low and I would freeze…I would have another though.


      2. My heater went out…there is no sleeping when that happens. You can pile some blankets but it still didn’t work… That only happened once.
        Being 13 or 14 I would puncture it but the patches always held. After a few leaks I finally learned. They were durable.


  4. Just had a 2 cm leak in a 20 yr old mattress. After nearly 44 years on a waterbed last night was the last as we’d already decided to go to a conventional mattress, it’s a little sad. So comfortable and always warm! But movement, esp change in height when the other gets in or out – not the sloshing, it was well baffled – disturbed each. I think we got through 4. Leaks were always contained in the liner. Our second we bought in San Fransisco from a friend we’d met in Greece the previous year, Drew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow 44 years is a long time on one. After I wrote that… I looked around and priced a few. We have thought about getting one as my wife had one while she grew up.
      You are right when someone gets in or out the bed then it would rise or fall. Thank you for sharing that story.


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