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Water Parks Ride the Wave

Responding to demand, Raging Waters and Wild Rivers introduce new rides.

May 20, 1999|LAURIE K. SCHENDEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Southland's two major water theme parks, Raging Waters and Wild Rivers, will be showcasing new rides to woo visitors this summer.

The mere sight of the Wedge might make even an extreme athlete hurl. Raging Waters' newest thrill ride, opening Memorial Day Weekend, looks like a vert ramp, the U-shape apparatus that skateboarders ride up one side and down the other.

But even the sickest skaters (skater-speak for the best) have never ridden anything like this. While the standard vert ramp for Extreme competitions is 10 feet, the top of the Wedge is 50 feet high--looming over a vertical drop.

Of course, you can't take a skateboard on the Wedge. Nor can you wear a helmet, knee pads or any other cushy gear.

When you pull off this ride, dude, you wear nothing but a bathing suit.

One to three riders can descend from the tower at once; they just climb onto an inner tube and hang on. The word is that there are 27 ways to ride the Wedge, named after the famed surfing area at the tip of Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. On first inspection from the top of the tower, however, it appears that there's only one way out--and that's straight down.

"There are other free-fall rides," said Terry Mackey, Raging Waters' park manager, "but not on an open flume. This has a 20-foot span."

The opening of the ride follows the "big plan" at Raging Waters, to introduce a new ride every year. The Wedge is the 25th major ride or attraction at the park, which opened in 1983.

Designed more for speed than for splash, the momentum of the Wedge takes you back and forth, up and down the ramp a half dozen times. The pool of water at the base of the ride works to slow you down.

For another unusual--though less spine-tingling--experience, Wild Rivers in Irvine has a new ride of its own set to open Memorial Day Weekend. The Patriot is not only built for anyone in the family, it's built for the whole family to ride together.

Up to four riders sit in a 10-foot by 3-foot canoe-type vessel that stays above water. This in-line boat is carried to the top of a 68-foot tower by a conveyor system, then released down a 700-foot slide.

The Patriot is the first four-person water ride in the Wild Rivers Park.

"It was really at the request of our guests," said Greg Briggs, general manager of Wild Rivers. "We have lots of things for couples or singles, but we didn't have anything for a group."

The ride is thrilling enough to satisfy teenagers, Briggs insisted, but mild enough for whole families.

Wild Rivers has added at least a dozen rides since the park opened in 1986. The Patriot is the park's 25th ride.

The main reason the park keeps adding the rides, Briggs said, is that the lines keep getting longer every year.

Meanwhile, both parks say safety remains a top priority in the wake of a 1997 accident at Waterworld USA in Concord, Calif., in which more than 30 teenagers piled on a ride that was built for a single rider at a time. The structure collapsed from the weight and one student was killed.

"We obviously know what kind of impact the incident had on the Concord park," Raging Waters' Mackey said. "We are always tightly scrutinizing our procedures."

The accident in Concord could not have happened at Raging Waters, he said. "We have bars going across the tops of rides; there's no way a group could stampede the flume," he explained.

Other precautions the parks have taken include using dispatch lights, shut-off valves and turnstiles.

BE THERE

Raging Waters, 111 Raging Waters Drive, San Dimas. Open weekends through May, daily June 1 through Sept. 25. $22.99; under 48 inches and seniors, $14.99. Season passes available. (909) 802-2200.

Wild Rivers, 8770 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine. Open weekends through June 6; daily June 9 through Sept. 11. $22; ages 3-9, $17.99; seniors, $9.99. Season passes available. (949) 768-9453.

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