Surf's up once again at Knott's Berry Farm, where HangTime is remaking the park's Boardwalk with a wild new roller coaster experience for Southern California thrill ride fans.
Knott's is calling HangTime the first dive coaster on the west coast. But this is a Gerstlauer Infinity model, not a Bolliger & Mabillard Dive Coaster, the model most commonly associated with that term. So if by "dive coaster," Knott's simply means a coaster with a 90-some-degree drop, didn't Six Flags Magic Mountain do that already in this market with X, way back in 2002? (Not to mention Xcelerator, right next door on the Boardwalk.)
Okay, X didn't offer the forward-facing dive that has become the industry standard on all those B&Ms, but more of a reverse somersault into and out of its 90-degree, face-down drop. So rather than call shenanigans on the whole "dive coaster" thing, let's give Knott's credit for offering a new experience to roller coaster fans on the west coast.
And you can't beat the view from the top of HangTime, either. Knott's gives riders an exhilarating (or excruciating?) 12-second pause at the top of the lift to look over the Boardwalk and the surrounding Buena Park neighborhood before dropping you into an acrobatic series of overbanked turns and loops.
HangTime isn't about the 57 mph top speed, but all those flips and turns as it disorients you sense of what is up and what is down. If the coaster's opening moment is the hang time, the rest of this surfing-themed ride is the wipeout, as the waves throw you around, back toward the beach (aka unload).
Like Electric Eel, which opened last week at SeaWorld San Diego, HangTime doesn't stop to allow you a breath. The closest thing to a pause on the coaster are those moments when the train slows to "hang" at the top of its loops and turns. From the drop at the top to the final brake, I timed 42 seconds of non-stop action, during which I had only the vaguest notion of whether my body was riding upright or inverted.
But even though it's a wild ride, it never feels too extreme. Thanks to the relatively moderate speed of the coaster, I never felt the punishing G forces that I feared might make HangTime's movement unbearable for many riders.
Including me. I have to admit that my first experience on a Gerstlauer wasn't a positive one, so I came on to HangTime with some unusual trepidation. Dollywood's Mystery Mine kicked my ass — or more accurately, my head — the first time I rode it, so I wondered how smooth HangTime would feel.
No worries here. As smooth as an ocean breeze, HangTime slips from one element to the next, providing a comfortable ride in its bucket seats with a clamshell lap restraint. No over-the-shoulder harnesses or leg-pinching shin guards here. It's as comfortable a set-up as I've ever felt on a coaster.
And for all the great views on the coaster during the day, the off-ride view is just as amazing at night. I love how the track lighting follows the train after dark, forever chasing that wave.
So where does HangTime rank? Obviously, that decision is personal and up to each fan to decide. For me, HangTime is already my favorite coaster at Knott's and the best coaster I've ridden in Orange County.
Update: Here is the full video of tonight's opening ceremony for HangTime:Tweet
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