Coaster Kingdom

Wild 'n' Wet, German Fairs
Sunday, February 25, 2007

Look, my dear cherished reader, at the name of this ride. It is "Wild 'n' Wet". Got that? "Wild". "Wet". Nothing else. One word notable by its absence is "Rapids".

That's because it is not a rapids ride; doesn't advertise itself as a rapids ride; and should not be judged as a rapids ride. In fact, if I hear anyone describe Wild 'n' Wet as a rapids ride, I'm going to make them go and stand in the corner of the room, facing the wall.

So what is Wild 'n' Wet? Well, admittedly it does look like a supersized version of the Reverchon and Fabbri rafting rides, with a blue water channel spiralling through a web of structure.

The difference is that whereas the smaller rides's slides bottom out into a final stretch of rapids, Wild 'n' Wet instead deposits you into a fountain-filled finale.

Wild 'n' Wet has a lot to live up to. The Lowenthal family has quite a reputation where water rides are concerned; in fact the pinnacle of travelling log flumes, Wildwasser 3, bears the Lowenthal name.

As well as the fairground circuit, the family has interests in the theme park world, owning Germany's Skyline Park. This I mention for one rather curious reason; namely that Wild 'n' Wet is a strange mixture of characteristics that make it feel like a strange hybrid of a fairground ride and a theme park one.

The initial look of the ride is quite striking. Like Wildwasser, the theming is excellent - more so than a lot of theme parks would ever bother to do, I'll wager.

The themed viewing platform, featuring nautical paraphernalia, allows potential riders to take a closer look at what their ticket will give them, while a themed queue line, full of lifeboats, barnacles, and netting, carries a procession or riders to the loading platform.

In a sense however, while the theming is high class, it does lack the traditional fairground atmosphere. The flashing lights are comparatively few, and the large name sign above the ride is a floodlit piece of fibreglass themed to look like wood, much like you might expect at a theme park.

When surrounding rides are employing as many light bulbs as a small city, there is a chance that, despite its impressive stature, Wild 'n' Wet will fail to capture punters' eye the way it really deserves to.

A quick visit to the paybox adds you to the back of the human convoy, allowing you a Tussaud's style close-up view of the boats as they splash down into the main pool, and the subsequent dousing from the fountains. Arriving at the station, there is little time to admire the decor, as you are escorted to your boat.

Whereas Reverchon does a grand job of trying to get four people afloat on a vessel little bigger than a jam donut, Wild 'n' Wet uses rather luxurious boats from ABC rides that feel sturdy enough to make it down the Colorado intact. Comfortably seating nine riders in three groups of three, these bright orange boats feature all the comforts you'd expect from such a craft. Ellen MacArthur would no doubt approve.

From the station, we go straight onto the lift. Nothing noteworthy here, you might think, but this lift is a work of art. The boat rolls onto a platform attached to what looks like looking like a skeletal lift shaft.

As a safety barrier lowers behind you, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are going to do up the tower and through a gap in the tower onto the slide. Oh no, that would be far too slow for a German fair ride.

As the platform begins to move upwards, so the whole tower rotates 180 degrees, whisking the boat up in a spiral shaped ascent. If this were a theme park ride, such a system would seem outlandish and risky; to have it on a travelling ride is amazing, and yet the whole system works so beautifully.

As you reach the top, the barrier raises, the boat rolls off, and the platform arcs back down, acting as a counterweight for the other platform, which is already whisking the next boat up the opposite side of the tower. Poetry in motion.

And so we hit the water. Unlike the smaller versions of the ride, the boat seems fairly reluctant to do much spinning, however if that lessens the thrill of the ride, it compensates in the terrifying way the boats fly up the sides of the trough at each corner, creating an ever-present sense of imminent doom.

The slide itself is just about the right length, giving plenty of time to grow accustomed to what's going on, and to enjoy it. The fun of the slide increases through out as the web of structure serves to make later sections feel very fast indeed. The only real problem is that you never get much sense of height, as the edges of the trough tend to obscure the view somewhat.

Eventually the slide straightens and steepens, and the boat speeds toward the splashdown. The extent to which the riders will get wet is perfectly judged. Under the gaze of queuing punters on the bridge above, the spectacle of the boat hitting the water is impressive for riders and spectators alike, and the boat steadies itself for what would normally be a gentle bob back to the station.

Like Wildwasser, however, Wild 'n' Wet doesn't give riders a moment's peace, and starts attacking them with water jets as they pass under the bridge.

Passing the viewing platform, innocent looking animatronic figures squirt water from their mouths just to give riders a final dousing.

While not as riotous as Wildwasser's explosive finale, it more than livens up what would otherwise be a slightly anticlimactic ending.

So, the verdict?

Well, it's certainly quite a step up from similar rides, such as the UK's Wild River Rapids, and the Lowenthal family certainly deserve credit for bringing us the largest new travelling ride in quite some time, and for embarking on such an ambitious and audacious project.

That said, it is not without its flaws. Unusually for a German fair ride, the problems lie in a lack of showmanship.

The biggest problem with Wild 'n' Wet is that, as with Wild River Rapids, the nature of the ride makes it rather difficult for the casual punter to get much idea of what the ride is. Whereas a log flume allows viewers to see the riders' reactions clearly, the only people who get a decent view of Wild 'n' Wet riders are those in the queue - in other words, the people who have already bought a ticket anyway.

Wild 'n' Wet does try valiantly to solve this problem, with semi-transparent trough in the sections above the crowd; but this doesn't really solve the problem. Likewise, the amazing lift, which really deserves to be flaunted for all it's worth, seems buried at the back of the ride, and not as visible as it deserves to be.

While the theming is excellent, it does seem to belong more to the theme park world than the fairground. Subtlety is not always a good thing when you have to compete with a dozen rides each decked out like a portable nightclub. No doubt some will welcome a fairground ride that doesn't launch an all-out assault on the senses, but whether that makes it a good idea for the ride to hide its light under a bushel, only time will tell.

However, let's forget the niggles, Wild 'n' Wet is tremendous fun to ride.

From the bizarre lift, through the thrills and spills of the slide, to the fountain finale, Wild 'n' Wet never fails to hold your attention, and like most rapid/rafting rides, generates a great atmosphere among riders. Considering that the ticket price is unlikely to be any higher than that of Wild River Rapids, it offers great value for money, and is well worth a try.

Wild 'n' Wet had a lot to live up to, given the Lowenthal family's track record with travelling water rides, and while it isn't going to take Wildwasser 3's title as the world's most impressive travelling water ride, there is absolutely no shame in that.

Please, do not use our ratings to compare rides head-to-head. They rate only how well this ride meets its own objectives using criteria that may not necessarily be relevant with similar reviews.

Good points:

  • An amazing ride by any standards with rotating tower lift and spiralling turns
  • A great finale with water and fountains

Bad points:

  • Despite the queue bridging the final drop, the ride isn't very showy

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