With a baby-blue sky above, a young man in a soft cotton tee and cargo shorts put on a brave face and strapped himself into Busch Gardens’ newest roller coaster. He was looking for redemption.
Zander Morales, a 28-year-old bartender and student who dabbles in acting, needed to show the world he wouldn’t throw up again.
He was riding Tigris, a ride billed as Florida’s tallest launch coaster that opens to the public Friday. It was a chance to make up for that time he was briefly Internet famous for barfing on camera while shooting a commercial for Howl-O-Scream aboard SheiKra, one of Florida’s fastest coasters.
The footage,shared with permission from Morales and the good sports at Busch Gardens, was viewed thousands of times. A zombie and another actor give Morales pitiful looks when he hurls as the ride jerks to a stop.
PREVIOUSLY: Actor projectile vomits on SheiKra during Howl-O-Scream commercial and it’s no act.Tweets of “Florida man projectile vomits while riding roller coaster with zombie ... because Florida,” followed after the liquid scream was released on Busch Gardens’ social media accounts last summer.
We asked Morales to ride along during a media preview of Tigris on Thursday, and once again he was a good sport. And once again, he started looking awfully green.
“Hey, it’s Vomit Guy!” Busch Gardens president Stewart Clark said, rushing toward Morales. “I just wanted you to get back on that horse. You’re the famous guy.”
That’s the beauty of the park, Clark said, with its mix of rides and a zoo for those who can’t stomach a coaster.
“We like to have rides that have all kinds of different feelings and experiences,” Clark said.
“Oh, I felt them all,” Morales said.
“We have them for everyone, even little kids. You might want to go back to that one,” Clark told him. “It’s called Air Grover.”
That gave Morales an idea for a series: “We’ll call it ‘Zander Pukes on Things.’ ”
He swears hedoesn’t normally puke on things. He loves coasters. And Andrew Schaffer, the park’s director of coaster design, said it’s repetition and not any one element that usually sends a rider reaching for a place to barf in the bushes.
The night they were filming the commercial, the fourth ride on SheiKra did it for Morales. He said the director wanted to make sure they had enough footage and had them take one more trip “for posterity,” which turned out to be more true than anticipated.
The Tigris launch coaster flings riders forward, then jets them backward at 50 miles per hour.
“Oh, that’s so much worse,” he screamed.
Then it zooms ahead again for deep dives at 62 mph and a slow “heartline roll” that puts them fully upside down at one point.
He felt a flutter in his stomach, but was eager for a second ride. Only this time, he was riding in the very front car. There’s nothing to block your view of the last drop that feels like a straight freefall.
“That didn’t feel great,” he said as he feebly stepped off.
He let a few more groups pass before he strapped in again and came out the other side looking pale. The roll made him “feel like I had regressed into a baby state, like I had lost all motor skills.” He also felt a slight “oof” of nausea during the ride.
There was surely no need for a fourth ride and a possible “B2S,” the park’s code for a cleanup of a sick slick.
He went again anyway, this time in the back row, the one workers warned had the most severe whip.
“Oh, this is it,” Morales said on that fourth launch backward. The bile was rising.
But he swallowed hard and made it through the next 45 seconds and shakily climbed out of the coaster car. He rushed to the edge of the platform and leaned over the bushes.
He took a deep breath and held his Wawa breakfast down.
He doddered down the ramp toward the shade of the nearby Tigris gift shop. A worker offered him some cold water. He opened the bottle of Dasani.
“It tastes like I’m drinking nickels.”
He wasn’t proud. He wasn’t embarrassed.
“It’s like I’ve been acquitted for a crime I didn’t commit.”
Breathing hard and now sweaty, he distracted himself by talking to Trevor Suich, a zoo educator who was showing off a cute screech owl named Emmett in the gift shop.
Morales asked how birds feed their babies. Didn’t they eat the food for them and then throw it up?
Why, yes, Suich said. Birds can’t nurse like mammals do, so they eat the bugs or mice and then vomit it back so it’s easier for the babies to eat.
“Gotta admire that,” Morales said. “To each their own. I’ve been there. I’ve been on the Internet.”
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.