NCL Free At Sea

Undertow Spinning Roller Coaster At Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

By on 04/07/2014

Northern California finally has a spinning roller coaster and it’s called Undertow at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It opened on a limited schedule last October and has been putting smiles on people’s faces ever since. I just happened to be in the area recently and finally got a chance to let Undertow take me for a spin.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a fantastic seaside amusement park that I really like visiting. You’ll notice in my last trip report from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in May 2013, Undertow was still under construction and not open yet. It took a little longer than expected to open, but I’m glad they took their time to get it right because it’s a really fun little coaster.

Designed by German coaster manufacturer Maurer Sohne, Undertow is a spinning roller coaster that stands 50′ tall and was built on top of an existing building where a previous roller coaster has once stood. Even though it’s only 50′ tall, it looks a lot taller and really grabs your attention when you first see it from across the street in the parking lot:


As you get closer to the park’s entrance, it looks even taller, with three very distinct levels:


Undertow has 1,410′ of track and reaches a maximum speed of 40 MPH.

I was fortunate enough to be in the area while the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization was holding their Surf’s Up: Undertow event at the park. In addition to many other great benefits from the park that day, we got a full hour of Exclusive Ride Time (ERT) on Undertow before the ride opened to the general public, totally free just for being ACE members:


Undertow has seven individual cars, each seating four riders. Two face forward and two face backwards – at least to start. You get to pick your poison. At maximum efficiency, with all seven cars in operation, the coaster can handle 900 people per hour:


The covered station has separate positions for loading and unloading. The position at the far end, next to the main ride operator panel, is where the cars are loaded before being dispatched:


The cars enter the station on the opposite side, closest to the Boardwalk, where they are unloaded. The empty cars are then advanced to the loading position:


The restraints are very comfortable t-shaped lap bars that securely hold you in your seat. This is the back of an empty car that was just unloaded, as seen from the front of the ride:


As seen from the street, the cars leave the station and turn right, towards the lift hill:


As you can see in the above photo, the ride still isn’t quite 100% complete yet. They still need to finish painting the station and adding some cubby holes to hold your stuff. The ride doesn’t even have a sign yet, which is why I didn’t post a picture of it. The park wanted to focus on getting the ride operational for their guests to start enjoying as soon as possible. They’ll add the finishing touches in due time.

This car has just been dispatched and is heading to the lift hill:


The cars remain locked and do not spin while climbing the lift hill:


The cars also remain locked through the first drop. It’s not until the cars pass through a set of block brakes on the top of the second hill that the car is unlocked and starts spinning. However, that does not diminish the fun of the first drop at all. I definitely recommend facing backwards to start. I rode Undertow a total of seven times, five of them backwards, and l got butterflies in my stomach every single time we climbed that second hill going backwards. It’s the exact same feeling I get in my stomach during the backwards launch of Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain while sitting in the back row, if you know what that feels like. It’s definitely a good feeling:


As soon as the car is unlocked, it starts spinning immediately. This car was just unlocked and it’s already sideways before completing another full drop:


If you’re lucky, the car will continue to spin throughout the entire ride:


Here’s another shot of a car that’s working its way through the track sideways:


Even though there are no inversions on this coaster, it almost feels like there is. At one point, the track banks to a near vertical 80 degrees. If you’re facing straight up as you go through this curve, you almost feel like like you’re going to fall out backwards:


Once you hit the final brake run, the car is automatically spun into the proper position and locked before entering the station. The closer car below is slowly being spun back into a locked position while the car on the track continues to spin freely:


As I was leaving the park for the day, Undertow was open to the general public and the line was now quite substantial. This is a really fun family coaster and people are eating it up:


I really liked this coaster and I can’t wait to go back with my family so they can experience it too. If you haven’t been on it yet and get the chance, I highly recommend it. If you have been on it, what did you think? Did you like it as much as I did?

I’d like to thank the Northern California chapter of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, specifically the assistant regional representative Nicholas Laschkewitsch, for organizing this event. I’d also like to thank Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for hosting the event. They were very gracious hosts and everyone had a great time!


  1. Sean

    04/07/2014 at 10:56 pm

    Looks great! Nice review Kurt. Can’t wait to get out there to ride it soon.

  2. Andrew

    04/08/2014 at 12:58 am

    That’s awesome! Great photos!

  3. Scott C

    04/08/2014 at 4:56 pm

    I am looking forward to taking this ride for a “spin” at Coaster Con!!

  4. Erik

    04/09/2014 at 3:54 pm

    so awesome…

  5. mike

    04/21/2014 at 12:39 pm

    LOVE IT & Love to go around 50 states.TO do this for a living.
    I’m a big A C E member in Southern, Cal. Face book add

  6. Scott C

    04/23/2014 at 3:27 pm

    I wish SoCal would do ACE events. I know they are doing post con this summer, but after doing coaster con all week, I think I will pass on that.
    I have been a member a year now, and aside from media day stuff I could not attend, not a single event that I am aware of.
    With all the parks to choose from, you would think they could do a day for each park annually. Other regions certainly do.

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