While most posts on Coaster Critic focus on “what’s new” in the world of theme parks, I wanted to take a moment to highlight something we seldom think about—defunct rides. Whether it’s the short-lived rush of Hypersonic XLC or the existence of the mysterious Tomb Raider: The Ride, these thrill machines may be removed from park maps, but they’ll always live on in our collective hearts.

My original intent was to cover all of the major roller coasters that previously existed at my hometown park, Six Flags Great America (among these were Ragin Cajun, Déjà Vu, Rolling Thunder and several others), but for now I’m going to emphasize one particular ill-fated ride: ShockWave.

The Record-Breaking ShockWave at Six Flags Great America

This record-breaking roller coaster from Arrow Dynamics opened in 1988 as the world’s tallest and fastest looping ride, breaking the inversion count of then-holder Vortex (6) with seven. The striking white supports and royal blue track made for a visual treat at the very front of Six Flags Great America.

With an impressive height of 170 ft, a wild top speed of 65 mph, and septet of inversions (three vertical loops, a batwing element, consecutive corkscrews), ShockWave was the most intense coaster in existence at that point, and remained so for some time thereafter. Eventually Arrow completed their trilogy of the “terrifying triplets”, with Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure and Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain, but this was the original bad boy.

The general public hated on this coaster for the unpleasantly rough ride it delivered, most notably the section immediately preceding the MCBR (mid-course brake run) after the 3rd vertical loop. Trains took a sharp left turn and everyone on board was subjected to an extreme moment of head-banging. You could prepare in advance of this, but for those caught unaware, it was painful. Low ridership, rising maintenance costs, and frequent reports of mild injuries (mostly head-related) were the nails in the coffin for this one.

Needing a spot for their newest ride, Six Flags Great America opted to tear down ShockWave in 2002 instead of the beloved Whizzer, one of the last operating Schwarzkopf speedracer coasters. Although Superman Ultimate Flight is a decent replacement, it isn’t terribly unique and definitely not record setting in any way.

The trains from ShockWave were sent to sister parks in New Jersey and California for spare parts use on Great American Scream Machine and Viper, respectively. Of these three sibling coasters, only Viper remains standing.
90% of the track and supports were whisked away to a nearby scrapyard and the sign was donated to the ACE museum, while the lift motor and small segment of track were re-used on Demon. For years, pieces of the track and supports could be seen rusting on a hillside just east of the park, next to where Dark Knight now stands.

Only the ride’s large metal entry gates can still be seen in use as part of the park’s Fright Fest event…and that’s all that remains of this once illustrious roller coaster.

What’s Your Take?
Did you ever ride ShockWave? What’d you think? Leave a comment below.

Photo Credit: Pieces of ShockWave by Jonrev [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About The Author

I've ridden 200+ coasters in my lifetime, including those at 8 different Six Flags parks and 7 different Cedar Fair properties. I'm a huge fan of airtime on old wooden behemoths, while dark ride shooters and drop towers are also personal favorites. The Voyage is the best coaster I've ever ridden!

7 Responses

  1. John Patterson

    Great article! I have never had a chance to ride any of the Arrow, mega loopers. I visited Magic Mountain as a kid around the time when Viper was new and was too short. I hope I can still sample that example, and would, no doubt, need to employ some defensive riding techniques. Cheers, Eric!

    • Eric

      Thanks John! Yeah, Shockwave was one of those (much like Vortex @ KI) where defensive riding techniques were a must. Word on the street is that Viper might be torn down soon, so if you get the chance to ride it soon I’d do so!

  2. Joel

    As I was learning about roller coasters I was always in awe of ShockWave and the other huge Arrow loopers. I spent so much time looking at pictures of these monsters online especially because I was a huge fan of steel loopers when I was younger.

    Thanks for the post! I feel like I kind of got to experience now even though I missed it.

  3. Thomas

    Sorry to say, I’ve ridden all three of the mega Arrow coasters and they were equally unpleasant. GASM was a stunning visual element entering the parking lot, as was Shockwave and as is Viper, however, the ride experiences came nowhere near their visual impact.

    • Eric

      Indeed, all three of the Arrow “megas” made a striking visual statement, though they delivered pretty jarring rides. I think Shockwave was the worst in terms of roughness, but it’s still tough to see a once record-breaker rust on the side of the road 🙁 Thanks for the comment, Thomas!

  4. Rudi Gandy

    I’ve ridden Shockwave, Viper, and Vortex of the Arrow mega-loopers. I loved Viper when it was new. Is it me, or have the Arrow coasters deteriorated over the years? I never minded them when I was young, but now they are really tough on the body.

  5. Jason

    In addition to the usual rough Arrow transitions, another thing I read about Shockwave was that the wheels on the trains wore out very quickly and thus were frequently replaced.


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