World’s largest water slide is higher than Niagara Falls (Wired UK)

VerrücktSchlitterbahn Kansas City

The world’s largest water slide opened at the Schlitterbahn
Kansas City
waterpark on 10 July, and the mere sight of its
51.38m drop is enough to tie a person’s stomach in
knots. The  park’s latest addition, named Verrückt,
just tops out the Niagrara falls, runs a few centimeters shy of
Nelson’s column, and boasts over ten metres on the previous record
holder, the Insano in Brazil.

During Verrückt’s initial 60-degree
steep 17-storey plummet, riders hit speeds of 50mph and
experience up to three g. Then, a specially developed water jet
system kicks in to boost the three-person raft up a second
18-metre-high hill, creating a sensation of weightlessness
along with the experience of a second world record for the tallest
uphill water coaster, and potentially an urgent desire to vomit.
The whole thing lasts under 18 seconds.  

Verrückt POV at Schlitterbahn Kansas CitySchlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts

The ride’s German name, which translates as insane, seems
similarly appropriate to the two men responsible for creating this
monstrosity, Schlitterbahn’s senior designer John Schooley, and
co-owner Jeff Henry. “Our consultants prefer to call us
knuckle-headed idiots,” suggests Schooley, describing how he and
Henry were Verrückt’s first testers of the non burlap-and-sand
variety. “Jeff and I ride all our rides first. You can’t put other
people down something you’ve designed without being willing to do
it yourself.” 

“The first time wasn’t too bad because I didn’t know what was
going to happen,” he explains. “But it’s a terrifying ride. You
feel like you’re being dropped straight down out of the sky. It’s
very different from a roller coaster where you’re mechanically

While it’s the sight of the first drop that makes you weak at
the knees, it was the troublesome second hump that set Verrückt’s
opening back several times. Initially this was twice as steep,
at a ludicrous 45-degree incline. But during testing this saw
the sandbag-filled rafts fly right off the top. “It’s just
geometry,” Schooley calmly explains. “With certain weights their
momentum meant the friction of the slide didn’t slow them enough.
So they were going off on ballistic trajectories They just
continued up whatever path they were on till they came crashing
down around 150 feet away.” 

Even Schooley felt this was pushing the fear factor just a bit
too far. So he and Henry tore down two thirds of the ride and spent
two-and-a-half weeks reducing it to the current, comparatively
tame, configuration.

“When you develop something like this nothing ever seems to go
as planned. But you have to say that failure is not an option and
you have to make it work,” Schooley says. “That for us is the fun
of it: to take something where we’re not even sure if it’s
possible, scare ourselves to death when it doesn’t work, then
figure out how to fix it.”

Those about to book tickets for a thrill seekers pilgrimage to
Kansas can rest easy. With an updated total weight limit of between
181kg and 250 kg the redesigned ride saw over 100 safe sandbag
tests before opening and has already seen over 1,000 human riders,
including the mayor of Kansas City, since.  

Indeed Schooley and Henry are confident enough in the ride’s
design that they’re already moving on to plans for building several
more in the rest of their parks. Schooley doesn’t expect other
designers will be copying them any time soon however. “This is
technically the most complicated water slide I’ve ever seen,” he
says. “It’s the bleeding edge for sure.”

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