For roller coaster fans, Pipeline The Surf Coaster represents a potential revival of the stand-up roller coaster. But for most visitors to SeaWorld Orlando, the park's sixth non-kiddie coaster is supposed to represent a chance to ride the waves like an expert surfer.
SeaWorld has leaned into the theme of what it is calling the world's first surf coaster. White sand gives the ride's entrance the look of walking onto a welcoming beach. The roller coaster trains are styled as giant surfboards. The station queue spiel voice sounds like a graduate of the Jeff Spicoli School of Tasty Talking.
Of course, if this were a true surfing experience, most of us would fall off the board the moment we stood up to ride our first wave. So that's where Pipeline's restraint system comes into play.
One of the reasons why Bolliger & Mabillard's stand-up coasters fell from favor was because of their system for keeping people from falling off a high-speed train that's diving and curving and looping. Sure, you are standing, but your torso is stapled between an over-the-shoulder harness up top and a banana seat down below. The lack of give in those nether regions caused many cis-male riders to feel like they might be deceased-male riders by the time the experience was over.
What do stand-up coasters and Tchaikovsky have in common? They're both known for their Nutcrackers. Ba-ding-TISS.
Pipeline tries to address that issue with a spring-like mechanism that will allow each of the coasters' "seats" to bounce with the motion of the ocean, if you will. Couple that with a track design featuring what SeaWorld is calling a "wave curl" inversion, and yeah, Pipeline feels like what I imagine surfing the waves might feel like if someone strapped me up on a board and made it impossible for me to fall.
You can see the seat motion better on the reverse point of view video.
So did Pipeline feel any more comfortable that an old-school B&M stand-up, such as Six Flags Magic Mountain's Riddler's Revenge? (Which I love, by the way.)
Eh. The vest restraint felt like it was cutting into my clavicles once the ride op locked me in, which is not something I have felt with vest restraints before. Fortunately, the discomfort went away as soon as the coaster launched and momentum pushed me forward into the vest a bit. But the discomfort came back as soon as the ride hit the brake block returning to the station.
As for the bottom half of the restraint system, the springing of the seats means that whatever adjustment you gentlemen might have done on the loading platform will become useless as your seat moves up and down during the ride. The high G load approaching the ride's one inversion caught me, forcing some scooching that continued throughout the ride.
But my big take-away from Pipeline was its airtime. Pipeline's seats threaten to do to roller coaster airtime stats what steroids did to the Olympics. There's some definite artificial enhancement happening here. Whether that becomes the welcome next step in the coaster wars or the cause of the next flame war backlash we will discover in the weeks ahead. But having a little pop of airtime turn into a literal jump surprised me the first time it happened on Pipeline and offers the most compelling reason I took away to entice me to turn around and try this coaster again.
Pipeline The Surf Coaster opens officially to all SeaWorld Orlando visitors on May 27. In the meantime, preview rides may be available to SeaWorld passholders. For discounted tickets to the park, please visit our partner's SeaWorld Orlando tickets page.
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