Southern California is long overdue for a water coaster.
For the uninitiated, a water coaster is a water park slide that mimics the ups and downs of a traditional roller coaster with the help of conveyor belts, water jets or magnetic propulsion.
I rode my first water coaster last summer and instantly fell in love. Now I'm desperate to get one within 300 miles of Southern California.
My family and I experienced our first water coaster during a cross-country theme park trip last August. Splashin' Safari water park at Indiana's Holiday World has two slides powered by linear induction motors that zip riders over undulating courses combining the thrills of a coaster with the spills of a water slide. The result was a series of exhilarating ascents and disorienting descents that left us wanting to get right back in line to ride the Wildebeest and Mammoth water coasters again and again. My whole family left Holiday World wondering the same exact thing: How is it possible that we don't have a water coaster in our own backyard?
While the water coaster concept remains a rarity west of the Rockies, the thrill slide has been around for nearly two decades.
Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando, Fla., the most visited water park in the world, opened the Crush 'n' Gusher water coaster in 2005.
Debuting in 1994, the Master Blaster at Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas, was the world's first water coaster and winner of Amusement Today's Golden Ticket award for best water ride for a decade.
Water coaster manufacturing in North America is dominated by two Canadian companies: Ontario's ProSlide, which makes the linear induction-powered HydroMagnetic slides, and British Columbia's WhiteWater West, which builds the water jet-propelled Master Blaster rides.
This year, Tennessee's Dollywood and New York's Splish Splash will add HydroMagnetic slides; South Korea's Lotte World and Australia's Wet 'n Wild will introduce Master Blasters (built by a licensee).
RiverRush is set to open at Dollywood in May with four-person toboggan-style rafts that zip over hills, through tunnels and around hairpin curves along a 1,175-foot course. Debuting Memorial Day weekend, Bootlegger's Run at Splish Splash will feature a similar set up beginning with a 45-degree drop.
Around the world, water coasters are spreading rapidly with installations in China, Singapore, Ukraine, South Korea, Australia, England and the United Arab Emirates. Wild Wadi water park in Dubai features eight (yes, eight) Master Blaster water coasters.
In the United States, there are still only about two dozen water coasters at water parks big and small in places like Massachusetts, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kansas.
The closest water coasters to Southern California are still a day's drive away in Colorado (Water World), Arizona (Wet 'n Wild) and Northern California (Golfland SunSplash). The newest of those, the $4.5 million Mile High Flyer by ProSlide, opened at Denver's Water World in 2012.
It's still pretty hard to believe that after all this time we don't have a water coaster in Southern California. Fortunately, there are plenty of chances to rectify the oversight in the near future.
The new Wild Rivers in Irvine is expected to debut in 2014 with a WhiteWater West Master Blaster. There's no word yet on the slide inventory planned for Wild Rivers' upcoming sister park in Temecula.
The oft-delayed Great Wolf Lodge, planned about a mile from Disneyland in Garden Grove, is expected to be the largest property in the chain of indoor water park resorts. While the California location has yet to divulge a full slide list, a Great Wolf Lodge next to Kings Island amusement park in Ohio features a water coaster.
SeaWorld San Diego, which purchased Knott's Soak City in Chula Vista, plans to reopen the water park under the Aquatica name this summer. Aquatica water parks in Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio don't include water coasters but anything could happen in California. Though a water coaster at Aquatica certainly seems unlikely for this summer, there is plenty of room to grow at the San Diego location.
Other possibilities include Valencia's Six Flags Magic Mountain (whose sister park in Massachusetts features a water coaster) and Anaheim's Golfland (whose Northern California sister park is home to the state's only water coaster). But even I know these are both long shots.
Likewise, I have no good reason to believe the water parks at Legoland California, Knott's Berry Farm or Raging Waters will add a water coaster anytime soon.
Speaking of pipe dreams, I continue to hold out hope Schlitterbahn will someday open a Southern California outpost or Disneyland will turn the unused "third gate" into a Typhoon Lagoon-style water park (or at least a Marvel theme park).
So since it's a little far to travel to Roseville, Wisconsin or the Middle East for a water park, I'll make this plea: We need a water coaster in Southern California.
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