by Frederick Gomez
Buckle down, San Diego! Sea World San Diego is getting ready to launch their newest thrill ride which
will soon be the talk of the city and promises to bring conga lines of patrons
eagerly queuing up to be blasted into a hair-curling experience! All this slated for next year, 2012. The official newsbreak and unveiling should
cause a tsunami-size splash on the front pages of newspapers here in Surf City,
San Diego, and beyond.
But at present, San Diego’s famous sea life park has been nursing this secret like a June bride.
I contacted Sea World back in January 2011 regarding any plans for a
coaster attraction and their official e-mail reply was neither ‘nay’ nor ‘yea,’ only: “At this time, we have not made any announcement about a thrill ride . . .”
I love Sea World. And I love the suspense and mystery that has shrouded them regarding this
secretive plan of theirs. A PR’s dream, actually. Because the very nature of its secrecy keeps the public talking about it, which,
in turn, keeps promoting Sea World San Diego as a hot topic! A brilliant marketing strategy, even if that is not what is intended!
Rule No. 1: if you don’t give the public all the details – they will ‘fill in’ the blanks with their
own theories, like it or not. Just the nature of the beast. Such public rumors can go a long way in ‘growing a life of their own’ -- hmm, kinda like Area 51. Don’t laugh, the intrigue becomes far more enticing. Sea World San Diego is employing an almost ‘stealth-like’ technique to further camouflage their upcoming ‘dream ride’ in a most clever and fundamental way, that will remain in effect, even after it
is in full operation to the public! More on this later.
Regarding Sea World’s exciting new secret, yes, there have been little ‘peek-a-boo’ clues in the news media, and print gossip has been all over the place, but Sea
World San Diego has not made any official announcement to date, and has
deflected probing questions like a skilled
martial arts master.
However, any such Sea World plans will most likely leave a ‘paper trail,’ and they have. Out of curiosity, I obtained a copy of a spectacular thrill ride proposal by Sea
World San Diego
(public access via the internet). The twelve voting members of the California Coastal Commission have, indeed, received and approved (initial) plans by Sea World San
Diego to build a ‘Manta Ray’ style flying roller coaster (first filed back in 11/23/10). But folks, this is no ordinary roller coaster. It is a most unique experience of simulated flight that might have caused Icarus
to turn green with envy! If rides were marine animals, this one would be akin to the underwater grace of
a giant manta ray, which the ride emulates, hence the nickname: Manta Ray Flying Roller Coaster! Passengers will be soaring in majestic grace, yes, but I’m not one hundred percent sure that Uncle Ernie and Aunt Molly will be chomping
on the bit and have ants-in-the-pants to climb onboard this one. The new attraction proposal comes with the tagline “thrill ride,” and this flying coaster certainly has ‘teeth’ to it – serrated ones!
Looking at the copy in my hands, I can’t wait to board this monolithic flying ride that will encompass both air and
water through its over 3,400 foot journey. It will surely miniature a typhoon and give Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny’s Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” character) second thoughts! If you have an aversion to wind in the hair and a baptism of water, this flying
episode is definitely not your cup of tea.
I always thought ‘white knuckle’ rides were the strict domain at such sites as Belmont Park, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain. All that will change next year. I’m a lover of adrenalin-inducing attractions like “Superman the Great Escape” (Magic Mountain), or “Silver Bullet” where riders hang in mid-air (Knott’s Berry Farm), or “California Screamin” (Disney’s California Adventure).
But Sea World San Diego has a different spin on things that are not found at any
of the aforementioned theme parks. Roller coasters are a dime-a-dozen to yawn at but, conceptually, this one is a
rare breed of coaster ride with a ‘brand new paint job,’ from start to finish. It is not designed to merely retrieve your Adam’s apple into your orifice, they all do that (yawn, again). This one also creates a breathtakingly beautiful experience, and will allow you
to feel the majesty, power, and exhilaration of soaring smoothly – though quickly – as if you had suddenly donned magical wings! Manta’s Flying Roller Coaster ride would be “Soaring Over California” (Disney’s California Adventure) on steroids! You would graduate from ‘simulator’ to actual aviator, in a manner of speaking.
The preliminary proposal submitted by Sea World San Diego smacks of
cloak-and-dagger mystery. Even the proposed construction of the Manta Ray “Flying Roller Coaster” is cloaked in secrecy (like a Romulan Bird of Prey, which by the way, it
resembles!). The physicality of the Manta Ray will have its own stealth attributes as stated
by the famed sea life park: “. . . restriction of the coloring palette of those portions of the ride visible
outside the Sea World Park leasehold.” How cool is that? Simply put, Sea World’s got style! The height restriction of the mysterious Manta Ray project (kind of rhymes with
Manhatten Project (LOL)) is in accordance with coastal height limits which
furthermore makes it slung-low, and in Sea World’s words: “. . . and is only marginally visible from outside the park.”
So, what are we dealing with, exactly, here at San Diego’s world-famous marine park? Well, let’s get a close-up look at what is in store for us. Sea World San Diego has two sister parks: one in Orlando, Florida and one in San Antonio, Texas. The one in Orlando, Florida has a Manta Ray roller coaster ride, officially
titled, “Manta Ray, the Flying Manta.” It is expected that Sea World San Diego will replicate what is found in Orlando,
Florida. If so, here is what is in store for you. At present, the Manta Ray experience is the only true ‘flying roller coaster’ of its type currently in existence (Orlando, Florida).
Adjacent to the ride is expected to be a huge ray pool. It is interactive, whereby visitors can
view and even feed the various bat rays swimming about. Below this feeding area is expected to be an underwater viewing area where
people can see and study the various manta rays gliding about through the
water. Watching the ‘flying motions’ of the graceful rays in the water will be a preliminary for you, because you
will be simulating these same movements onboard the Manta Ray flying coaster
when riders will experience the same ‘swooping’ and ‘gliding’ as the rays!
Upon boarding the Manta Ray ride, you will soon experience the strange sensation
of your seat rotating you into a prone, face-down position (already a very
different position from the
garden-variety coaster rides!). You are now in a headfirst posture, ‘attached’ to the underbelly of a giant manta ray -- which is sporting giant, twelve-foot
wings -- along with three other
passengers. This is a multi-launcher flying coaster, so you will be traveling with a
squadron of other ‘mantas,’ all inter-connected, totaling 32 passengers in all (per squadron). You are now almost ready for takeoff and will soon be – literally -- spreading your wings in a manner only visualized in your dreams! But, this will be no dream. You will have an experience that will last the duration of your lifetime! It is, quite simply, unforgettable. Ask anyone who has been to Sea World Orlando and flown on the Manta Ray-style
flying coaster and you will most likely hear a commentary that will define the
Airborne maneuvers will be unlike anything you’ve previously experienced, or seen in other coaster rides. Some things will seem as an illusion. For example, your cruising (or flying) speed will be almost 60 mph, but will
seem a lot faster! Why? Because you will experience flight through corkscrew turns, four inversions,
four spins (including two in-line spins), a flat spin, a pretzel loop -- wait,
let me catch my breath; okay -- occasional 100-foot drops, a very close call with a cascade (waterfall), and
then a wing dip that touches the surface of a man-made lagoon that you will be
fast gliding over!
Throughout all these aerial maneuvers, you are soaring like the legendary manta
ray: effortlessly, smoothly, and with majestic grace! This is much more than the mindless exertion experience of the typical roller
coaster; it is a marvelous sensation of glorious flight without the jerky
motions that are common on most other thrill rides. It is a dream-flight come true! One’s only remorse might be for those left behind, on the ground, who were unwilling
to participate in your airborne rapture experience; a rapture they may only
imagine – but never fully realize, unless they join you.
Minimum height restriction for this jaunt into the crisp Mission Bay air, is
most likely to be 54 inches (as at Sea World Orlando, Florida). I spoke with Sea World Orlando’s Promotion Department and I thank them for their eagerness to assist me in this
literary project and the photos.
Sea World San Diego was founded May 21, 1964. It is approaching 50 years of age. For reasons unknown, its younger sister-parks: Sea World Orlando (founded December 15, 1973), and Sea World San Antonio
(founded May 27, 1988), left its parent way behind as far as fetching thrill
rides. Sea World San Diego has only one small coaster/water flume ride, “Journey to Atlantis,” which pales compared to Orlando’s version. “Wild Arctic” is only a motion simulator. And San Diego’s “Shipwreck Rapids” is not an airborne coaster experience. In contrast, both Sea World Orlando and San Antonio each have multiple roller
coasters. But, only the Orlando park has the Manta-style flying coaster (since 2009), the
only type in existence. That will all change in 2012. Sea World San Diego, the daddy of the other Sea World parks, is finally growing
up, and catching up! And I can’t wait.
Oh, and there is one more item. Sea World San Diego does have one major feature the other two parks don’t have and will never reach parity: San Diego itself -- America’s most beautiful city! (My opinion.)
About The Author
Freidrich Gomez is a prolific writer, having written a number of cover stories
for us. Always a master researcher, he documents his stories with facts as well as
occasional barbs of humor. He’ll be back soon, count on it. One of our favorite writers.