What better place than Coney Island for a man who floated down the Amazon River in a rubber suit and was the first to swim the English Channel. Adventurer Paul Boyton opened Coney Island’s first enclosed amusement park in 1895. Sea Lion Park, built on the shores of Coney Island Creek at West 12th Street, consisted of a small collection of rides featuring the Chute-the-Chutes water ride and the Flip-Flap looping coaster. A live Sea lion show entertained visitors.
Paul Boyton (1848–1924) was trained as a lifeguard and an acrobat. He was a long-distance swimmer who developed a pneumatic rubber survival suit that enabled him to stay afloat while paddling across the ocean. His Chute-the-Chutes water slide was developed in 1894 and he brought it to Coney Island the following year. Boyton opened Sea Lion Park on July 4, 1895, paving the way for Coney's other great parks, Steeplechase, Luna Park, and Dreamland. The park was short-lived and closed during the disastrous rainy season of 1902. Boyton's Shoot the Chutes was incorporated into Luna Park and operated until 1944.
The Coney Island History Project inducted Paul Boyton into the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2005.
Paul Boyton's great-grandson, Craig Dudley, is an actor who works at the Ensemble Theater Company of New York and the Old Globe Theater of San Diego.