Register-Pajaronian reporter Erik Chalhoub takes a spin on Undertow at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Sunday. (Photo by Rob Chalhoub)
SANTA CRUZ It took longer than expected, but the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's new roller coaster, Undertow, dispatched for the public for the first time Saturday.
Undertow, manufactured by Germany-based Maurer Sohne, was originally slated for a summer opening. However, a six-week long delay in parts set construction crews back considerably, and a long inspection process by the state further pushed back the opening.
Boardwalk spokesman Kris Reyes said the park received the OK from the state last week. The Boardwalk plans to run Undertow throughout the rest of the year, even when the park goes into limited operation mode, according to Reyes.
Early reviews of Undertow indicate it will be a success with riders.
"The people that rode it really liked it," Reyes said. "They seemed to have a lot of fun. It's great for all ages and all ridership levels. We're really proud of it."
The ride's soft opening Saturday and Sunday had little to no publicity, but that didn't stop the crowds from flocking Undertow's queue.
Nicholas Laschkewitsch, assistant regional representative for American Coaster Enthusiasts Northern California, said Undertow is "a perfect fit for the Boardwalk."
"Undertow is a really fun ride," he said. "With banked turns, spinning action, and an overall smooth-as-glass experience, its something the whole family can enjoy together."
A grand opening event is scheduled for spring 2014.
As is typical with new rides, Reyes said riders can expect some delays or closures as mechanics work through any unexpected issues that may come up.
Undertow takes four riders per vehicle throughout 1,410 feet of track. Standing at 50 feet tall, a total of seven cars are on the track at any given time.
A twist to the conventional roller coaster, each car spins as it makes its way through the course. Depending on the weight and position of the riders in the car, the ride experience will change each time one rides it.
Undertow replaces Hurricane, a roller coaster that made its debut at the Boardwalk in 1992. That ride was sold to Western Playland Amusement Park in New Mexico, where it is currently thrilling guests.
The upper deck area where Undertow is located is also home to two new attractions: Beach Swing, a swing ride for children, and a 360-degree rock climbing wall, in addition to the Jet Copters kiddie ride.
For information, visit www.beachboardwalk.com/undertow.
Review: Undertow is a worthy addition to Boardwalk's lineup
There was a time when I used to be afraid of spinning rides.
I can attribute this to Spin Out, the now-defunct tea cups ride at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The ride was interactive, meaning you could spin it however fast or slow you want.
Unfortunately, I chose the fast route, causing the world around me to blur and the centrifugal force to glue me to my seat. Naturally, I didn't feel so well once I got off.
That fear of experiencing that feeling again kept me off of any type of spinning ride for years, even the slowest.
Thankfully, after learning mind over matter, I got over that fear. A good thing too, because had I not gotten past it, I never would have been able to experience the thrill that is Undertow at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
For the fans of Hurricane who were disappointed when they found out it was going to be replaced, don't worry: Undertow will make you forget that Hurricane ever existed.
For starters, Undertow is extremely smooth, a contrast to the notoriously rough-and-tumble Hurricane that left me with bruises after a couple of rides.
After the car ascends the lift hill, Undertow begins with what the Boardwalk calls a "carousel spin," offering a nice view of the park's signature 1911 Looff Carousel from more than 50 feet off the ground.
From there, you dive into the first drop at speeds of up to 40 mph. After a series of wild mouse-style turns, the car breaks into a spin when it heads into the Immelmann Turn, an 80-degree bank that will leave you either looking up to the sky or straight down at the ground, depending on where you sit.
I happened to be staring straight at the ground, and I experienced a moment where I flew out of my seat, which was probably one of my favorite moments on the coaster.
Undertow prefers the unexpected over speed. While it's not the fastest roller coaster you will ride, it makes up for it by providing a different ride every time. Some moments in the course took me off guard, for instance, one turn I expected the car to tackle straight on, yet it turned at the last second, taking me sideways through the sharp turn.
Undertow is a great addition to the Boardwalk's lineup. It's sure to be a hit with every type of rider, from the casual families to the thrill-seekers.
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