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Raging Waters delivers coaster thrills with new Aqua Rocket water slide

Water coaster thrill slides are a rarity west of the Rockies, but Raging Waters San Dimas now has one

Southern California’s first water coaster takes riders on a water park slide that mimics the ups and downs of a traditional roller coaster with the help of magnetic propulsion.

I rode the Aqua Rocket water coaster at Raging Waters San Dimas on Saturday under slate grey skies that kept the air temperature about the same as the water temperature (both in the mid-60s).

To say the least, the first splashdown was a bit chilly. But by the seventh ride, my body had adjusted to the temperature and I could have ridden Aqua Rocket all day. It was that fun.

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Some members of the Raging Waters lifeguard crew have ridden Aqua Rocket more than 100 times during test runs, putting the new water slide through more than 3,500 cycles before opening the attraction to the public in time for Memorial Day weekend.

I climbed into the four-person toboggan-style bobsled raft, leaned against the backrest and grabbed onto the hand holds as we began an ascent to the top of the 55-foot-tall lift hill.

The leisurely, peaceful pace of the conveyor belt lift hill allowed for sweeping and majestic views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

After gently rolling into a covered curving portion of the slide, I thought for a moment that I might not even get wet on Aqua Rocket.

From there on out, the slide was pretty much a series of gravity-powered drops followed by magnetic-powered ascents known as "rocket incline zones."

The first drop reached a top speed of 30 mph with a good deal of airtime, especially sitting in the back. A fine mist sprinkled my forearms and shins.

The zip-zip-zip uphill portions were probably the funnest part of the water coaster, in part because most water slides are a downhill-only experience. The raft made a fiss-fiss-fiss sound as unseen linear induction motors using magnetic fields underneath the slide propelled the metal plate in the bottom of the toboggan up the hill.

From the top of the first magnetic hill, we splashed down into frigid water and everyone in the raft let out spine-chilling screams. The water was definitely cold.

Each of the subsequent whoop-de-do hills was shorter than the last with a bigger, wetter and colder splashdown. I found myself letting out a lengthy "ahhhh" each time we descended and laughing all the way up the subsequent magnetic hill.

The final drenching came at the end of the ride when the raft made a triumphant splashdown. I left my mouth open and wound up coughing up water. The raft filled with water and any notion of staying dry on Aqua Rocket left me shivering and shaking.

But the mild chill was not enough to keep me from riding Southern California’s first water coaster again and again. I kept getting back in line until it was closing time. By my final ride on Aqua Rocket, my body temperature had adjusted to the water and air temperatures and I felt like a seasoned water coaster veteran.

Designed by ProSlide of Ontario, Canada, the 1,000-foot-long Aqua Rocket is a bit on the short side. I rode longer water coasters at Indiana’s Holiday World during a cross-country theme park trip in 2012. Holiday World had a toboggan-style ride like Aqua Rocket as well as another hydromagnetic water slide with a round raft that spun around throughout the undulating course.

The thrill slide concept remains a rarity west of the Rockies, with water coasters in Colorado (Water World), Arizona (Wet 'n Wild) and Northern California (Golfland SunSplash).

The new Raging Waters hydromagnetic slide may portend good news for other water parks operated by Newport Beach-based Palace Entertainment.

New York’s Splish Splash and Wisconsin’s Noah’s Ark already have water park thrill rides. Hopefully, the success of Aqua Rocket means water coasters are in the future for the Raging Waters parks in San Jose and Sacramento, as well as Idlewild’s Soak Zone water park in Pennsylvania.

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