Everything is bigger in Texas. Even its water park rides. At a height of more than 81 feet, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island opened Massiv, the world’s tallest water coaster in late June. What, you may ask, are water coasters? As the name suggests, the popular attractions borrow elements of water slides and roller coasters (and take some inspiration from log flumes as well).
Riders in one- or multi-passenger rafts careen around water slide-like tracks. Blasts of water propel the vehicles through uphill sections, while gravity takes care of the rest. Like a roller coaster, passengers experience G-force-induced thrills including “airtime,” the sensation of rising out of your seat, as the rafts crest a hill. Unlike a roller coaster which typically includes a mechanical lift hill, riders have to tote themselves – and for Massiv passengers, their rafts – up to the highest point of the attraction. At Schlitterbahn Galveston Island, that means schlepping ride vehicles up 123 steps, or over 81 feet.
The payoff is a big first drop. The Schlitterbahn folks haven’t divulged a top speed for Massiv, but it appears to be quite zippy. At the bottom of the inital drop, the ride delivers the first of four water jet-propelled uphill sections. That’s followed by some disorienting twists and turns in enclosed, translucent parts of the chute. Massiv offers a triple-down finish, giving passengers three brief pops of airtime before skimming to a stop in a landing pool.
Jeff Henry, whose family founded and operates the Schlitterbahn chain of water parks, developed the water coaster concept. It uses his patented “Master Blaster” technology to send ride vehicles uphill using turbo blasts of water. The original Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas introduced the prototype Master Blaster. Water parks across the globe, including Typhoon Lagoon at Florida’s Walt Disney World, now offer water coasters.
In addition to taking the record for the tallest of its kind, Massiv is the first water coaster to forego protective netting around the open sections of the course. Its developers say that they tweaked the design to give the ride a more open feel, but ensure safety.
In case you’re wondering, the word “Massiv” is neither a typo nor a spelling faux pas by the park. It continues the chain’s tradition of using German names for its attractions. New Braunfels is home to a large German community, and the playful names pay tribute to the region’s heritage. As you might expect, “Massiv” translates to massive. “Schlitterbahn” means slippery road.
In 2014, the chain debuted another record-breaking ride with a funny sounding name. Schlitterbahn Kansas City in Kansas opened the world’s tallest water slide, Verruckt (German for insane). It drops over 168 feet. While the park doesn’t consider the ride to be a water coaster, it does include a single Master Blaster uphill section following the insanely tall drop.
In addition to Massiv and its other outdoor attractions, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island converts a section of its water park to indoor use twice a year. During the chillier months before and after the summer season, the park encloses the Wasserfest area. Visitors are able to splash and slide in the climate-controlled part of the park starting in early spring and again in the fall.