Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Report – April 2018

McLaren: An elixir of Spring break mixed with salt was in the air in Santa Cruz last week as I headed to my favorite seaside amusement park, the Beach boardwalk. The weather was absolutely gorgeous as it was clear, about 65 degrees, and with a slight breeze.

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Crowds fluctuated between light to moderate throughout the day; I believe about a 10-15 minute wait for the Giant Dipper, which ran both trains all day, was the longest line we had to endure.

The newly 14 million dollar renovated area and upgraded entrance on the north side of the park looks awesome, as it includes a new entryway and sign, new seating, a more spacious and clean feeling, and the best part: the two most recently added flat rides to greet you (Typhoon & Shockwave.) The main attraction right as you walk in is the massive ARM Rides Typhoon, a classic double-looping style flat ride. This ride will draw anyone’s attention in due to its bright and warm color scheme, the insanely awesome custom LED lighting package during the night hours, and screams from the riders as well as the drive motors, which are some of the loudest I’ve ever heard on a flat ride.

The Boardwalk actually used to have an older Fabbri Kamikaze called Typhoon as well that was removed in 2009 to make way for the now very popular and more family oriented Sea Swings. I think it’s a cool novelty when amusement parks bring back old ride concepts with a more modern and upgraded twist. Doing this allows seasoned visitors to make the connection between old rides they used to love and the fact that they are now able to experience them in a new way once again. I personally love these rides, they offer a good amount of disorientation when ran well (this one completes about 4 complete rotations in both directions, making 8 for 8 loops) and some great hang time during the slower passes, and sometimes if you’re lucky, the ride will make a brief stop in the upside down position.

Undertow, built by Maurer Sohne, was up and running like a champ today, assisted by a very short line as well as speedy dispatches. I really enjoy this ride as I think it was a GREAT choice as far as a replacement roller coaster goes in place of Hurricane. Undertow has a nice right hand, 50’ curved drop, hits an impressive 40mph and offers both static as well as spinning motions.

This coaster is built on the upper deck of the boardwalk, giving it a boost in the height-off-the-ground category and gives gorgeous views of the beach. It has enough speed and intensity for those who thirst for adrenaline, yet not enough that younger folk can’t ride, making this attraction a thumbs-up for most.

Along with Typhoon, the Boardwalk also invested in a massive Disk’o from Zamperla that sits perfectly on the newly extended section of the upper deck where Undertow lives. Similar to the feeling Undertow has to offer, this ride offers incredible views of the coast as its not on ground level.

The perfectly curved track sticks slightly out and over the deck on both sides in which it is built on, giving rides a sudden sensation of, “wow, this is super high.” The extra height combined with the spinning in both directions through the rides cycle is sure to give anyone a very pleasant and sometimes even nauseating experience. Look how sick this area looks once the sun goes down!

Double Shot was thrilling guests all day with its panoramic views and, well, an intoxicating double shot of ejector airtime.

The stage that hosts concerts as well as movies on the beach was being constructed and can be seen very easily from the stairs and deck where the northern end rides are. This allows guests to enjoy productions from on the beach as well or any open railing that’s on the western side, which faces the stage.

Let’s take a cruise on Sky Glider and enjoy some prime coastal views, and see some of the locals.

This is probably one of the best attractions any seaside amusement park could invest in, as they’re not terribly expensive, offer visuals that are to die for, act as an alternate and more entertaining mode of transportation, and have a very small foot print.

While we’re up here, let’s have a brief discussion on what’s going on with the Boardwalks possibly most intense flat ride, as well as my personal favorite: Fireball.

Fireball is now on month 8 of closure, and for some very interesting reasons. On Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus OH, a tragic accident occurred around 7:20pm local time on a Amusement’s of America’s Fireball. This ride is a swinging pendulum-type ride with six rotating arms that each old four seats. As the ride swung back down toward its resting position during the middle of the ride cycle, one of the sets of four seats tore away from its sweep arm and crashed into the structure before crashing against the rides structure and tumbling to the ground.

This particular model of ride is called “Afterburner” and is manufactured by KMG based in Holland. These popular rides (sometimes under different names) can also be found at a variety of places in California under different names such as this one at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (Fireball) as well as Knott’s Berry Farm (La Revolucion), California’s Great America (Delirium), Beach Blaster (Belmont Park), and portable versions at various fairs around California (G-Force, operated by RCS & Fireball operated by Butler Amusements). Due to the fact that KMG requested that these rides cease operation until further notice, all models listed above did indeed shut down for a time, Fireball at the Boardwalk being the only one in California that still remains temporarily closed. The Ohio State fair incident is what kicked off Fireball’s closure, however it is to my understanding that this caused officials to begin a hefty and lengthy refurbishment early on the ride before the summer 2018 season rolls around.

It was determined that “excessive corrosion” was to blame for this accident in Ohio, which occurred in an area that was not visible on the ride. Water had collected and pooled in the bottom of the hollow piece of the sweep arm that was welded to the horizontal tube that held the set of 4 seats. KMG issued this statement two days after the incident:

Rewind to President’s Day (Monday, Febuary 19th) and I’m back at the Beach Boardwalk to enjoy my extra day off and to see what all is happening at my favorite seaside hangout. I checked the Boardwalk’s website to see that Fireball was still under their attraction list meaning there was no sign of the rides removal, however it was labeled as temporarily closed still. There had been rumor circulation over the past 2-3 months of the Boardwalk doing away with the ride all together, however what I found out that was not the case by asking one of the maintenance employees. He simply told me they were doing a “thorough refurbishment and polish” and that due to that fact, it was taking a little longer. Here’s what it looked like on that day:

Fast-forward again to last week when I was there, and just like I had expected, Fireball was still closed; however what I saw this time was very positive. The entire ride had been reconstructed with totally new and shiny seating, and an updated and reinforced sweep arm. Sand bags were belted to the seats, meaning that testing has either begun or was in the near future.

The connection between the tube that the 4 seats are attached to and the sloped piece of the arm appeared to be much beefier, and it appeared as though there was no longer a bottom piece of metal, opening up the space where water collected on the model that suffered the incident. KMG offers an updated part for this connection, and it looks like this (photo credit: KMG):

There is now a simple metal plate that covers this new reinforced area that can be removed so internal areas can be inspected much more easily. I commend KMG as well as the Boardwalk for working together to improve and strengthen their equipment, and I cannot wait to jump back on this awesome flat again this summer. I commend the Boardwalk and KMG for working together to take an extra precaution to insure the safety of park goers.

We’ve concluded our lovely journey down to the southern end of the boardwalk on Sky Glider. Let’s see what’s up. Rock-o-Plane was unfortunately closed today for annual maintenance. This is one of the oldest rides not only for the Boardwalk, but also in flat ride history as they have been around since 1948. I personally love this ride as its one of the few attractions that offers a significant amount of control over the ride experience and level of intensity via the ability to lock/unlock the cage at any given moment to induce rocking and inverting. I’ll have to come back this summer to take this thing for a spin once its open again.

It was announced on March 15th via the Boardwalks social media that they had made the executive decision to retire one of their oldest (opened in 1959) and most iconic rides: their classic Ferris wheel. It used to rise up between Tsunami and Red Barron on the southern end of the parks stretch.

It is reported by the Boardwalk that this Ferris wheel gave over 4 million rides since 1986, which was when they first began to track numbers. I’m definitely going to miss this ride, as it was one of my favorites when I used to go to as a kid, however I do realize that 60 years of operation is a very decent lifespan for any attraction. Officials from the Boardwalk noted, “We’ll be looking at replacement options and will keep you posted.” We’ll be on the lookout as to what they have in store for us in this spot over the next few months. I’m going to assume that they are going to try to make something happen before summer hits and crowds become heavier.

WipeOut was and up and running fantastically today with little to no line, which I was stoked about hence it’s probably one of the best versions of the Huss Break Dance in the US. This ride as actually located under the boardwalk as the entrance is on the lower level toward the southern end of the park. WipeOut is another favorite of mine because the ride cycle is surprisingly fast paced, the spins are snappy and intense, and the special effects are killer.

This is what the ride looks like during loading and unloading. Once the lapbars have been checked, the maintenance/load lights shut off and ride begins to rotate in the dark, kicking the experience off with a sudden burst of disorientation whilst classic beach rock songs play from all around.

Throughout the duration of the cycle, a myriad of lighting effects are turned off ranging from flashing multi colored LEDs, to underwater projections, to strobe lights; major fan of this ride.

I love this view of the boardwalk so much. Totally reminds me of being a kid here and going on the Cave Train with my cousins and grandparents. The sound of the waterfall, screams from riders on Tornado and Cyclone, and the slight ocean breeze… good stuff.

It seemed as though most of the Boardwalk’s closures/rides under annual maintenance were around this end of the park on a lot more of their smaller rides including Crazy Surf, Riptide, and Hang Glider. Crazy Surf was locked about 1/3 of the way up of its full rotation during the ride cycle to allow for easier access to the seats and restraints for work as well as inspection. Interestingly enough, Crazy Surf and Typhoon both have something in common; it is that they are both the precedent versions of very similar, previously operating rides.

The old Crazy Surf that was before the current one was closed in 2012 to make way for the current model, a KMG X-Factory with the same concept in mind as the original. It is my assumption that the Boardwalk determined the first model become outdated, however they did not want to simply leave this area empty, but instead decided to replace it with a similar attraction. Due to the fact that this ride must be very slim to fit between the parks boarder and some of the supports from Logger’s Revenge, this type of ride was probably the best option for a specific footprint while still offering a thrilling experience. KMG’s model of this style of attraction is very reliable, well built, smooth, very visually appealing, a gondola capable of tipping forward up 20 degrees, and even a set of water sets on the floor that shoot up and have the ability to get riders wet during the ride cycle.

For those of you who may be curious to see some extra behind the scenes photos of when this ride was installed and how they did it, keep reading. Here are some photos that were posted in mid April of 2012 via KMG’s Facebook as they neared the end of the production of this new attraction. Here’s a shot of the ride still being built in the Netherland’s before it was shipped to California. Also, notice how this ride initially had regular lap bars, but is currently retrofitted with OTSRs… interesting (photo credit: KMG):

Now THIS is cool. On April 17, 2012, the new Crazy Surf arrived and they actually had to hoist the entire, racked attraction over Logger’s Revenge’s lift to place it on its current cite via crane (photo credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Facebook.)

This must have been a very tedious and nerve-racking process, as the clearance was very minimal and the ride as a whole weighs about 20 tons (photo credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Facebook.)

Even though this beauty was closed while I was there, I can’t help but still appreciate the fact that this nice little flat is beautifully themed and well constructed. One of the things I love most about attractions especially from KMG is they’ll usually collaborate with some of the best artist and painters in Europe to really bring their attractions to life based on the client’s needs before sending them off to their new homes. This one in particular was hand done by BB Dekorateurs of Zaandam, Holland, who have worked with KMG for many years now on a variety of different rides. This custom piece depicts a chaotic and action-packed California beach setting complete with waves, windsurfing, and beach patrol all backed by a massive sunset. This ride also comes with a complete all LED package, giving it an extra wow-factor during the dark hours of park operation.

Cliff Hanger was stopped slightly at a tilt, and it is my assumption the purpose of this was to access the under side of the gondolas more conveniently

Here we can see the fiberglass covers that attach to the bottom of the gondolas have been removed and set off to the side. The locking mechanisms can be seen under where the passengers lay down on this ride, most likely exposed for either thorough inspection or replacement all together. While this may not be my favorite ride here, it does, like many other attractions at the Boardwalk, have the advantage of close proximity to the coast, which definitely gives at an advantage over similar attractions.

Also in Cliff Hanger’s ride area, we see the bottom halves and seats to the Boardwalk’s Tilt-A-Whirl, Riptide. Similar to most of the maintenance going on around the southern end of the parks stretch, it appears to just be manor annual tasks that must be completed before lines get long and there’s less of an opportunity to carry them out.

I’ve never actually seen these rides taken apart like this, so its interesting to have what it typically covered up exposed for inspection. This about wraps up ride closures for the Boardwalk at this time. With only a few weeks left before full ride, daily operation begins on May 25th, the park seems well on their way to have a killer season for summer of 2018.

Took a nice splash on Logger’s Revenge towards the end of the day as it had virtually no wait and is a nice and relaxing way to finish out. This is one of those log rides that doesn’t necessarily have super thick theme aside from the station, but in my opinion doesn’t really need it due to the fact that the majority of the ride rises above the park and offers great views, especially when the sun is setting.

Rushing down into the water, we hopped off and had to head toward the best attraction at the park before calling it a day.

We of course can’t forget to visit the iconic Giant Dipper while at the Boardwalk. One of the things I admire most about this coaster is how perfectly well looked after it appears to be, especially being built and operating since 1924… that’s almost 100 years now.

This is one of those coasters where it feels nothing like a modern day woodie, and by that I mean you can tell that back in the day, the concept of banking turns to cut back on lateral forces hadn’t been put into practice quite yet as seen here on the famous first fan turn; it’s fairly flat and throws you to the right significantly, but I honestly love it because its like the OG of wooden coasters.

I have a lot of respect for the amount of care the Boardwalk has invested in the health and well being of this coaster. It ran two trains all day, had fast dispatch times, had a good old oil smell, and still to this day has that old school wooden coaster glory. I spent the last moments of my evening watching the sun go down behind the iconic coaster from the hill off of E. Cliff Drive and man, it was an incredible sight to see.

Closing time! crowds began to clear out for the day and only the sound of crashing waves and the slight buss from the parks lit up signs were left.  Thank you to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for always giving us a fantastic time with a solid lineup of rides, exceptionally well-maintained facilities and attractions, and a classic retro California beach vibe. I’m sure I’ll be back soon; they make it hard to stay away. Thanks for reading!

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One Reply to “Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Report – April 2018”

  1. What an informative article — thanks for sharing! What a great way to spend Spring Break. We LOVE the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Giant Dipper.

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