Have a splash at Virginia's first water coaster

aheymann@vagazette.com

Up and down, round and round, with a splash — Water Country USA’s newest ride combines a water slide with a roller coaster.

Sitting in a raft at the top, riders are pushed down an 856-foot slide. After a brief moment downward, waterjets push the raft back up, splashing riders with cold water.

Down the slide, five circular sections, or “saucers,” make the raft travel faster.

This is Cutback Water Coaster, the first water coaster in Virginia, which opened at Water Country USA on Friday.

“(Cutback is) incorporating the elements of a roller coaster into a waterslide, so you get that nice splash and coolness in the Virginia heat, but you’re getting those same thrills,” said Elizabeth Ringas, a spokesperson with American Coaster Enthusiasts.

Phillip Boykin, park services leader at Water Country USA, said most water slides are gravity driven and only have one drop. However, using a water jet propulsion system, Cutback move riders upwards, said Suzy Cheely, senior leader of design and engineering for Water Country USA.

“And that’s what’s special about it— you don’t just get one drop, you get to drop three times,” Ringas said.

Cheely said in addition to more drops, jet propulsion splashes riders with water after it shoots them upward.

“So, unlike some other water coasters that might use water or whatever, a lot of those don’t have much water in them, so you don’t really get wet,” Cheely said. “We wanted to have an experience where the rider would get wet.”

Another thing everyone who rode Cutback talked about was its speed. Ringas said the last three saucers, circular sections of the coaster, helped riders move down the slide faster.

“Saucers three, four and five … are back-to-back-to-back, and that’s why the ride is named Cutback,” Boykin said. “You go into that right bank, then left bank, then right bank, it’s a thrilling sensation. It’s probably my favorite part of the ride.”

With a minimum height of 42 inches and rafts that hold four, it’s a perfect ride for the whole family. The low-height restriction on the coaster will let more children and their parents take to the ride’s currents.

“It’s great that it’s a 42-inch height requirement so a lot of the little ones can enjoy it,” said Kevin Lembke, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s president.

“So it appeals to a little bit broader demographic, which we’re definitely excited about.”

Cheely said while they had been thinking of opening a water coaster at the park for a few years after riding a similar attraction at another park, the team decided they needed one in the area.

The coaster replaces an old slide, but re-used some of its parts, such as its stairs, water pool and conveyor belt to get the tubes back up top.

“It’s kind of a nice recycling story when a ride gets older and more tired and not as popular. It’s kind of nice we can utilize an existing site,” Cheely said.

All the plumbing, electrical work and slide parts are new.

Old and new — coaster and water slide — Ringas said she’s sure Cutback will excite anyone brave enough to ride it.

“This is going to be that thrill ride that people are really excited to ride,” Ringas said. “I say don’t be intimidated, go out and experience it you’re going to have a great time and you get to do it with the whole family.”

Want to go?

Water Country USA is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hours shift during the summer. It is located at 176 Water Country Parkway in the Williamsburg area. Tickets are $41.99-$61.99.

For more information, visit buschgardens.com/williamsburg/water-country-usa.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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