The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Giant Dipper hit 60 million riders last week. As a theme park fan and member of the theme park geek website Theme Park Review, it was a no-brainer for me to check out the Friday celebration.
The journey down to the Boardwalk from Watsonville should have taken 30 minutes, but ended up taking more than one hour, thanks to the ever-present Highway 1 traffic (Is highway widening the answer? That’s another story). After being rejected in two different parking lots due to capacity, I finally found a spot at the very end of the last parking lot.
The first impression I always get when I visit the Boardwalk is “Man, this place is booming.” The chaotic walkways, overfilled lines and thrilling amusement park atmosphere are in stark contrast to the wide-open areas and 10-minute lines at California’s Great America, which I frequently visit and can’t stop talking about. But again, that is another story I’m dying to tell ... Did you know that Great America is getting a new wooden roller coaster next year, and it will be announced on Aug. 29? The foundation is being set right now. Did you also know it’s their first new coaster in more than a decade?
Sorry, I need to restrain myself. This is about the Giant Dipper at the Boardwalk.
I was told that the 60 millionth riders would be announced sometime between 2-3 p.m. I got there at 2 p.m., and met up with Boardwalk representatives and other reporters underneath the Fireball ride (which I got some great pictures of and was dying to ride it).
Around 2:30 p.m., we were told to walk up the Giant Dipper’s exit ramp. The riders, upon seeing all the press, started getting excited. Are we the 60 millionth riders? they wondered aloud.
Not exactly. It took about three train cycles before the 60 millionth riders were recognized. The other trains were the 59,999,999th riders (but hey, that’s an accomplishment in itself!).
After about three dispatches (I was amazed by how fast the ride operators work), riders in the red train took off. When they came back, they were announced the 60 millionth riders, cheering all the time.
I felt bad for the people who would be riding the next train. Maybe next time at 70 million?
Do you remember the first time you rode the Giant Dipper?
I don’t. I was too terrified.
I used to have a phobia of roller coasters, not to mention spinning and upside-down rides (and a combination of both).
Believe it or not, my first “upside down” ride was the Demon roller coaster at Great America in 2008, and I’ve never looked back since.
The Giant Dipper’s first drop used to scare me the most. The flying-out-of-your-seat, stomach-floating experience was enough to make me shut my eyes and grip the restraints until I made a permanent mark on them.
Of course, this was before I was middle-school age ... really!
Now, I can’t get enough of that free-fall drop sensation, which is one of the reasons why the 224-foot Drop Tower at Great America is my current favorite ride, and also why I’m dying to try Six Flags Magic Mountain’s new 400-foot drop tower.
Why was I ever so afraid of something so fun? It will remain a mystery to me.
Erik Chalhoub’s latest theme park obsession is the water slides at California’s Great America. His column runs the first Thursday of every month. You can contact him at echalhoub@register-pajaronian or twitter.com/RP_Erik.
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