Specific Type: Spinning Coaster
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has stood proudly along the California oceanfront since 1907, surviving even through the harshest of times as one of the few seaside parks left on the West Coast. Today, it stands a California’s oldest surviving amusement park, and has done so while maintaining its small, nostalgic atmosphere and without the “major” attractions most other California parks boast.
The park’s long-time staple attraction, the Giant Dipper, opened at the park in 1924 after its original coaster, L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway, was removed at the end of 1923. Since then the park has seen a small group of coasters come and go, with the parks most recent addition being a kiddie coaster in 2000. The last more major coaster the park added came in 1992 with the opening of the S.D.C. Hurricane, which itself replaced the departed Jetstar that originally operated on that site. That coaster had stood proudly at the park for 20 years, but in early 2012, it was announced that the coaster would be leaving the park, heading for Western Playland in New Mexico for 2013 where it was sold for $500,000.
It was a huge loss for Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to lose one of its only three coasters, and Hurricane was the biggest of their two steel coasters, the only other being the small Sea Serpent kiddie coaster. But all was not lost. In September 2012, following months after the announcement that Hurricane would be leaving Santa Cruz, the park announced that it would be adding an even bigger roller coaster in its place for 2013.
Appropriately named Undertow, the new steel coaster is a spinning coaster from German manufacturer Maurer Sohne. At a cost of $5.5 million, the dizzying new coaster would become the “only spinning coaster in Northern California!” after the removal of Pandemonium at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in 2012. Rather than traditional trains, Undertow is more like a Crazy Mouse coaster gone mad, utilizing individual cars each holding four passengers. But in this case, pairs of passengers sit back-to-back facing outward, and the cars themselves spin randomly throughout the ride based on weight distribution.
A ride on Undertow starts off with a sharp 90-degree turn right that engages the cars with the 50-foot tall lift hill. After cresting the apex of the lift, the track dips slightly, makes a sharp turn to the right into a short flat jog before the real fun beings. Where most wild mouse coasters would begin their 180-degree hairpins, Undertow banks sharply to the right and plummets down to the ground. As the cars skirt the ground heading back towards the bottom of the lift hill, the train suddenly pulls up and banks hard to the left, flattening out as it runs over the lift hill before making a wide U-turn into a block section.
Rolling right, the track descends into a downward spiraling U-turn before careening upward into an 80-degree banked, horseshoe-shaped “Immelman turn” that reverses the train’s path. After the Immelman turn, the track rises and hurls riders 90-degrees to the right back under the apex of the lift hill into the next block section. Out of the block, the track makes a wide 90-degree right turn, then double dips and rolls right again, sending the cars spinning through a slalom section changes directions four times and ends with another turn over the station and into another block section. Once clear of the station, the track again twists right and drops down into a spiraling 360-degree carousel turn and rises into another block section. Another 90-degree drop to the right, skimming just above the ground, leads to a final 90-degree right turn and a little pop into the final brake run.
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