TAMPA — I will admit feeling pretty ridiculous climbing into a bright yellow raft for Solar Vortex, the new waterslide at Adventure Island. I had stepped away from my computer where I was logging in all the events getting canceled over coronavirus concerns. But I think I needed this.
The park is still operating under its normal schedule, as is parent company SeaWorld, which also owns Busch Gardens. Solar Vortex, manufactured by WhiteWater, the world’s leading waterslide creator, includes dynamic elements the company invented. The attraction features a swirly “tailspin” that’s like a broad funnel shooting you out into a tunnel that harnesses the power of the Florida sun to create colorful patterns. They shine through the slide as riders reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
There’s a metaphor here as we swished through the first tailspin, my fellow rider giving me the tip to lean back on the circular raft so it picked up more speed on the exit. We entered a tunnel that had been gel-coated in black on the inside so the slits of light looked even brighter, like a disco fun house effect WhiteWater calls “AquaLucent." Then came the second tailspin for the ride billed as “America’s first dual tailspin waterslide.”
The high speed generated by the tailspin feature really amps up the ride, said project manager Andrew Hatcher.
“It’s a pretty high drop so it really increases your speed,” Hatcher said. But with a low limit of 42 inches to ride, “it can be the first big thrill ride for little kids."
Adventure Island Pass Members will get a sneak peek of Solar Vortex on Friday. The waterslide will debut to the public on Saturday when the park opens for the season. Visitors can ride in the raft in parties of two or four.
IF YOU GO
Solar Vortex at Adventure Island
Admission is $50.99 at adventureisland.com. Busch Gardens still has a deal for a free Adventure Island Fun Card with the purchase of a $109 Busch Gardens Fun Card, good for unlimited admission through Dec. 31. 9:30 a.m. Saturday. 10001 McKinley Drive, Tampa. (813) 884-4386.