Make us your home page
Instagram

Panic before the plunge at Ihu's Breakaway Falls

ORLANDO — Fear is a tricky commodity, and mondo business, for theme parks these days. You have to push the envelope to keep pace with your nearby competitors, but not be so pushy that too many potential guests tremble at the idea of your nefarious new terror machine.

Ihu's Breakaway Falls at Aquatica, SeaWorld's neighboring water park, is very much the modern I-dare-you attraction: a water slide and a drop tower all in one, a water slide you literally plummet almost straight down into. I was seriously freaking out before getting sucked into the swirly horror of it all. But I want to do it again. Right now. That innovative terror machine works quite well, thank you very much.

"We built in the anticipation from the start; as soon as you come into the park, you see this monstrous tower," Bryan Nadeau, Aquatica's thrill-junkie vice president, told me before I tentatively tried out the eight-story beast. "We wanted to push the envelope as far as possible, and Ihu's does that. For me, it's not too scary, and guests are loving it. It's been a home run."

Oh, it's plenty scary. And not for everyone. (There are other "drop" water slides, but not many are this stomach-flipping high. The height limit is set at a fairly tall 48 inches.) Still, if you can muster the courage to make the climb — and endure that fiendish drop — you'll be happy, and proud, you did. It's a total Tom Petty ride, kids: The waiting is by far the hardest part.

Ihu's Breakaway Falls looks vaguely Hitchcockian, 126 wooden steps winding ominously; most mortals will be sucking wind once they get to the top. Way up there, a wide platform (not for the vertiginous, to be sure) has three sci-fi-ish "breakaway boxes," which appear not unlike something a James Bond villain would use to dispatch the spy into space. (There's a fourth, nondrop slide for the chicken-out set, but that's no kiddie ride, either. After all, 80 feet up is still 80 feet down.)

At an 80-degree angle — a slight lean — you stand in the breakaway box, which has a clear plastic door. In a nice touch, all three boxes face each other, so you get to stare wide-eyed at fellow victims. Who will drop first: you or the hairy dude from Akron whimpering across the way? After the door encloses you in the pod (not for the claustrophobic, either) audio high-jinks are employed: a loud booming heartbeat and a countdown. Honestly, I can't remember if it counted down from five or three. All I remember is that it was counting down waaay too fast, and the bald, scary Aquatica employee who pushed the fatal button was grinning at me like a maniac.

I was hovering over the green slide, a winding, spiraling enclosed tube — and soon enough, whoosh! Because of that 80-degree lean, you ease into the sudden drop, the floor seamlessly dropping down, like a reverse toilet seat. With the soft plastic of the slide, there's no thump or pain to be had. In fact, my slide was actually relatively tame after the first few seconds of holy-bleep-what-was-I-thinking?

The finale, into the slow-down splash zone, is a total wedgie-maker, which is to be expected. Due to the volume of people they're pumping through Ihu's Breakaway Falls — the line can get long — the lifeguards at the bottom of the attraction were rather brisk in telling me to move my caboose out of the way. I actually sassed them a bit, flashed them a look. After all, I just braved the Falls, baby, the most nefarious water slide ever. Give me a second to, you know, adjust.

Contact Sean Daly at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

If you dare

Ihu's Breakaway Falls is now open at Aquatica, 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando. Guests must be 48 inches tall to ride. Single-day tickets to Aquatica are $56 for adults, $51 for ages 3 through 9, free for 2 and younger. For more information, go to aquaticabyseaworld.com or call 1-888-800-5447.

Panic before the plunge at Ihu's Breakaway Falls 07/03/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 1:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Seasoned cast scores an extra-base hit for St. Petersburg Opera with 'Faust'

    Stage

    TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.

    The St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season with Faust, in a production seemingly aligned with the original intent of French composer Charles Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. [St. Petersburg Opera Company]
  2. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway

    Stage

    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  3. A scene from "Epiphany."
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22

    Events

    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21

    Events

    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media