As innovations came to the roller coaster industry, Six Flags was always on the cutting edge introducing the latest and greatest types of rides in their parks. Riding a roller coaster in a standing position was a novelty that was developed in Japan in the early 1980's by the Togo company, with other manufacturers also trying to create their own variation of the design. For 1990, Six Flags Great Adventure would be the recipient of its first stand-up coaster previously located at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Shockwave was built on the site of Great Adventure's Garden of
Marvels area which had been turned into a miniature golf course and then
just some remote control boats and cars over the years.
During the summer of 1989, the area which had been closed off since 1986 began a transformation, filling in the man made waterways and mountain tops in preparation for the arrival of a new ride. Only a concrete "bunker" which served as the control room for the Garden of Marvels miniature boats and trains was left in place and used as a storage building.
All the concrete walkways throughout the entire site were removed all the way to the entrance portals near Dream Street and the Carousel. The only part of the Garden of Marvels left intact was a Koi Pond towards the rear of the future ride site. The sprawling oversized plot of land afforded more than enough land to accommodate the 3.3 acre ride which it would soon host.
Intamin AG, one of the best known innovators in the ride industry, designed
a compact coaster offering not only thrills but with an increased capacity compared
to the Togo models. To boost the capacity larger box beam track was
created for the first time which allowed four abreast riding.
Six Flags Magic Mountain introduced the chain's first stand-up coaster in 1986 when they opened ShockWave on May 16th behind that park's Spillikin Handcrafters Junction area. Construction of the ride in Magic Mountain was actually the second time the ride was erected. Initially, the ride was constructed, tested, and dismantled at Intamin's Montreaux, Switzerland testing grounds and shipped in fifty 40-foot containers to Los Angeles Harbor.
The Shockwave coaster was painted entirely black with black and red trains. The ride was a huge hit with the public, but Six Flags decided it was meant as a novelty so after three seasons the ride was packed up once again as part of the company's "Ride Rotation Program."
The Shockwave began its move to the east coast over the summer of 1989
with parts arriving at Great Adventure before the project was announced.
Some of the smaller parts were even shipped in their original crates from its
construction in 1986. Larger parts and pieces of track were
initially staged towards the rear of the old Garden of Marvels site.
The black track was going to be simply reassembled and the ride reintroduced as Ninja but the park realized it needed to be repainted so the parts were sent to a designated site for repainting to a royal blue color track and white supports.
For those that did get a glimpse of the track before it was removed, they were totally surprised. The Great American Scream Machine had just opened that same year so many people had a hard time believing another roller coaster would be coming so soon.
As the end of the 1989 season came, the new coaster was officially
announced, but without a name. Great Adventure held the "Stand Up and
Name It" contest where guests were encouraged to submit name
An artists' rendering of the new ride along with key statistics was located just outside of the future ride's home. The lower half of the sign included a countertop with entry slips and a slot for filled out forms. Entries were accepted until the day after the 1989 season with the winner to be announced on January 1, 1990.
The name they selected was "Shockwave" - the same name it had in California. Other finalists included "Excalibur," "The Ninja," "Sky Walker," and "Mind Bender."
|For the launch of Shockwave, Six Flags worked with Warner Brothers to create an image of Bugs Bunny that matched the colors and theme of the new ride which they featured on their promotional materials. Two media mailings, the first (blue) and second (yellow), played on the growing popularity of the Wheel of Fortune game show at the time to spread the word about the new coaster.
|In the days before advanced computer renderings a new ride often featured artists renderings which had varying degrees of accuracy. The ShockWave press materials featured some highly detailed renderings of the layout and look of the new ride, even though it appeared to be a hybrid of both Six Flags Great Adventure's ShockWave and Six Flags Great America's Iron Wolf which also opened in 1990.
|Click the graphic above to view all the content of the 1990 Press Kits.
On January 29, 1990, Six Flags Great Adventure hosted the American
Coaster Enthusiasts' Eastcoaster event which took place
inside the Showcase Theatre. It is here where the park presented information about
their collection of coasters and the theme park itself. After adding the
Great American Scream Machine, the world's tallest and fastest looping roller coaster for 1989, there was a
lot of excitement about the addition of a standup coaster for 1990.
With approximately 300 ACE members in attendance, Park President Ray Williams arranged to take the enthusiasts on a tour of the construction site, showing off how much progress had been made with the start of the new season just a few weeks.
A couple of facts about the Shockwave mentioned by Ray Williams during
the event was that the ride was built in sequence, from the station
forward. This was unlike the method used at Magic Mountain which
resulted in the last track sections not matching up. The difficulties
at Magic Mountain resulted in delays and additional costs. So when it
was reassembled at Great Adventure special care was taken to make
sure everything matched up and in the event there were any adjustments to be made,
those could be dealt with close to ground level.
In addition, Williams pointed out that the track was bolted together and not welded at the joints, making it easier and faster to assemble and disassemble the ride as it moved from park to park. He said Six Flags would be requiring manufacturers to use a bolts for all future rides so they could all be moved as part of the "Six Flags Ride Rotation Program."
|With the start of the 1990 season on March 31, the bulk of construction on ShockWave was done, with just finishing touches taking place. Signage in the park promised an "early spring" opening.
|Ride signage went up along with the finishing work on the queue house, station, and testing of the ride. With so much looking complete the ride was beckoning to park guests in the first weeks of the season. The ride's new entrance and exit were both blocked off with fences featuring "Opening Soon!" signs.
For Shockwave's opening press event on Friday,
April 20, 1990,
the park invited the media to Great Adventure on a sunny but very chilly day to showoff their new coaster.
The experience of riding a standup coaster was likened to "wing walking," a stunt performance from the early days of aviation where a daredevil would stand on the wings of a biplane in flight. Cheryl Rae Littlefield, a wing walker, was brought in to do a performance over the Great Lake for the media watching from the Great Lake Grandstand.
|After the wing walking demonstration the media and other invited guests made their way to the ride entrance where there was a ribbon cutting with Bugs Bunny wearing the suit shown on the press invitation. Those in attendance then got their first chance to ride ShockWave.
ShockWave made a big sensation with the public. Many guests had never
seen anything like it and were excited to try a new way of riding a
coaster, but some were just as excited about the park adding a second
roller coaster in two years.
The novelty of standing to ride came with challenges. The restraints required adjustment for each guest that rode, which slowed the loading times. It was labor intensive with additional ride attendants required to help make all the height adjustments to the restraints as well as checking the lap bar/shoulder restraint combo.
Once secure, the train would immediately engage with the lift chain just outside the station. After the 90 foot lift hill, the trains would dive down its largest drop to the right, through a 66 foot vertical loop, and navigate the rest of the 2300 foot of track reaching speeds of 55 mph and 3.4 positive g-forces.
Returning riders would exit the
trains to the right, go down a set of stairs, and go through a tunnel which
passed under the station.
One of the more unique aspects of the ride was that it had an observation area. This allowed guests to view the ride from the lift area and get views up close of the vertical loop. The area incorporated a Koi Pond which was in the rear portion of the 1974 Garden of Marvels attraction. The landscaped viewing area along with the pond with its fountains offered a nice place for guests to sit and take a break away from the hustle and bustle of the park.
The new coaster was quite popular, but soon after it opened it began
developing issues which forced it to have delayed openings. The daily
maintenance work for the first season irritated many guests as they
would come to the park specifically to ride Shockwave only to discover
they would have to wait for the ride to open later in the morning. Quite often huge
lines would form at the entrance as guests stood by for the ride to open,
often extending down Dream Street past the Carousel.
Another issue with ShockWave during
its run at the park was the noise levels it produced. The coaster track amplified
the rumble of the trains which could be heard throughout the park, drowning out music at
the Carousel and in the Games Square. While later installations of
the box-beam track lessened the noise by sometimes filling the track with sand,
this wasn't common practice yet. Also, with ShockWave being part
of the ride rotation program, the extra weight would only increase
future transportation costs.
ShockWave's queue was quite large in order to accommodate the crowds and was one of the first to feature vending machines in the queue house. People were often heard complaining about soda prices which at the time were an unheard of $1.00 a can!
|Though ShockWave was designed by Intamin and fabricated by Giovanola, the designers working for Intamin who created it went on to do many other things for Great Adventure and the industry. ShockWave was designed by Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard, both of whom had worked for Giovanola. The two would go on to form their own engineering company, Bolliger & Mabillard Consulting Engineers, Inc. who would go on to design five more coasters for Great Adventure.
In the fall of 1992, the ShockWave was
unceremoniously closed and removal began. At the same time,
Lightnin' Loops was being taken apart just a few hundred feet away to
prepare for 1993's new Batman The Ride. That announcement came
mid-summer 1992 so everyone knew Lightnin' Loops would be leaving.
Many people were "shocked" to see that the park would also be losing
ShockWave that same year.
Just like it went up, it came back down, carefully unbolted and disassembled. The pieces were all loaded onto trucks for their journey south where it would be a "new" ride for 1993 at Houston's AstroWorld, and be a novelty once again.
After the ShockWave was removed from the park, the site where it had
stood remained vacant. The actual ride area was just an empty field, but
the queue house and covered walkway that had led up to the station
Plans were made to utilize the space for additional "new" attractions to be added to the park with more ride capacity in a new themed area called "Fantasy Fair." This new section for 1993 was going to become the home to two of the park's favorite flat rides which had been removed to make way for other attractions.
In addition to the return of the Schwabinchen and the Swiss Bob, the medieval themed section was to include a covered pavilion giving a new purpose to ShockWave's main queue house.
Fantasy Fair never made it off the drawing boards
probably because a portion of the ShockWave site was planned for
redevelopment in 1994 with the addition of the expansive Right Stuff
Mach 1 Adventure and its themed surroundings.
ShockWave's front area remained vacant for several additional seasons eventually becoming home to Dare Devil Dive in 1997 and also Houdini's Great Escape in 1999.
While the ShockWave's site never became the home to another coaster, Six Flags Great Adventure did install a new larger standup roller coaster. In 2011, the Green Lantern was added to the park replacing the Great American Scream Machine.
Shockwave made its debut at Six Flags Astroworld as Batman: The Escape
for the 1993 season and ran there until the park closed for good in 2005. After Astroworld closed, the ride was removed and
transported back north to what
was at the time Six Flags Darien Lake. The ride sat unused in a field
and was eventually sold for scrap in 2017.
The ShockWave standup roller coaster had a long active life as it traveled the world from 1986 to 2005. Having been completely assembled four times and disassembled four times, the ride's history proved that relocating a coaster as part of the Six Flags' Ride Rotation Program was a viable way to share hardware across the theme park chain. Luckily, Six Flags Great Adventure was able to be on the receiving end of this ride swap and have ShockWave call our park home for three seasons.
Press kits for ShockWave contained an "I stood up to the ShockWave"
window cling which were very popular in the early '90s.
Also part of the Great Adventure History collection is a piece of the ribbon that was cut by Ray Williams and Bugs Bunny to officially open the ShockWave at the 1990 press event.
|Original Spotlight: May 6, 2007; Updated: October 13, 2022. GAH Reference#: RIDE-1990-001