GURNEE – It’s a long way up.
That’s a common reaction to the new Tsunami Surge water coaster at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Gurnee.
At a height of 86 feet, the Tsunami Surge is deemed the tallest water coaster in the world.
Since opening in May, the attraction has drawn fans near and far – many itching to get out and about since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Other water parks, none of them have anything like it. It’s very unique,” said Bob Bendorf, creator of the Facebook group Six Flags Great America Junkies.
“When you know your home park has some kind of record-breaking attraction, it doesn’t matter if it’s a water slide or a roller coaster, it’s one of those things where you kind of get that claim to fame.”
Along with its record-breaking height of nearly 8 stories, the Tsunami Surge features 950 feet of slides and tunnels to propel riders at speeds up to 28 mph.
The latest technology uses bursts of water to boost riders at uphill speeds and create what officials call “AquaLucent visual effects that create mind-blowing bursts of colors and dreamlike patterns.”
“You’re expecting to hear some club or dance music going on because the lighting is so cool,” Bendorf said.
Brent Weibel of Wayne, also a member of Six Flags Great America Junkies, has ridden the Tsunami Surge 10 times so far. The climb to the top – 145 steps – isn’t short, but it’s worth it, he said. He suggests visitors ride it first thing in the morning or at night when lines aren’t as long.
“I absolutely love it, really,” he said. “The speed on it is just about right on those hills, where it’s thrilling but it never really scares you. You don’t feel like you’re going to fly off of this thing. You’re just on a ride that’s a lot of fun, which I appreciate at my age.”
The new coaster adds to the excitement at the park, which is open to all this season, said Caitlin Kepple, communications and marketing manager for Six Fags Great America. The pandemic shortened last year’s season and limited visitors, but restrictions have been lifted this summer.
“We’re welcoming guests who may not have seen us in a while,” Kepple said.
Also new this year, Hurricane Harbor has its own separate entrance gate, she said. The water park no longer can be accessed through the Six Flags Great America theme park, she said. Visitors now can buy single-day tickets. For information, visit www.sixflags.com/hurricaneharborchicago.
As Hurricane Harbor’s 25th attraction, the Tsunami Surge is the water park’s first new attraction in a decade, Kepple said.
Despite a fear of heights, she gave the coaster a try.
“Words can’t describe it,” Kepple said. “It really feels like you’re flying. … It really is so phenomenal. There really is no other way to put it.”
Be prepared to get drenched, Weibel said.
And don’t forget to take a look around while you’re up there, Bendorf said.
“The view that you have of the park, it’s just a spectacular view,” he said. “You can clearly see everything in the park from up there. It gives you a vantage point you wouldn’t see otherwise.
“If you’re there, you definitely have to give it a try at least once.”