The Beast, Drop Zone, AtmosFear, the Revelation and of course, the “old wooden roller coaster.”
Last week, the Eastender went in search of some of the scariest rides on offer at this year’s Pacific National Exhibition and enlisted the help of Westender staffer Matthew Lambert to test them. The following are the five most stomach-churning, fear of heights-inducing attractions the PNE will have to offer and some of
Lambert’s observations — some other ride-goers also offered their opinions. These rides are also open now to check out at Playland. Visit vancourier.com for a complete list as well as a GoPro video of Lambert risking his life to help bring you this story. (Barf bag not included.)
Sitting in first place as Playland’s tallest ride, AtmosFear is an extreme version of the Wave Swinger. The 218-foot tall ride clocks in at about 70 km/h as it swings its riders in a 360-degree circle at an altitude high enough to see the city — that’s if you have your eyes open. This ride is more dizzying than it looks, but entertaining nonetheless.
4) The Beast
The name says it all. This carnival contraption is one of Playland’s newest acquirements and was one of Lambert’s most dreaded.
“Going up and down is one thing, but spinning, that’s a whole other scene,” said Lambert before the ride.
Riders are strapped in — feet dangling — and spun 360 degrees while connected to the end of a pendulum arm and swung back and forth, flying 90 km/h and reaching almost 12-storeys high.
But it didn’t seem to phase rider Ritu Ahuja, who rode it for the first time this year.
“This ride was excellent, I loved it. It was amazing.”
Ahuja rode the Beast with her two children and noted the ride didn’t make her sick, only thrilled. “I enjoyed it. It took me to a place where I felt good.”
“I think the second time was scarier than the first,” said Tim Mackie, who was also worried about the spinning, but said he felt good afterwards. He was in line for his third time on the ride with his son and daughter.
“The first time it was great, surprisingly. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I was gonna be. I mean, the kids are a lot braver than I am.”
The Beast was named their favourite ride this year. Lambert’s, not so much.
“I’ve never sweated so much on a ride in my life. I am like drenched now. That was so intense,” said Lambert.
3) Wooden Coaster
An oldie but a goodie. The Wooden Coaster was built in 1958, making it one of Playland’s oldest rides and most terrifyingly rickety. Creaking wooden boards and the sharp clicking it makes as it ascends to its first peak makes it a PNE classic and Playland’s most famous attraction.
“It would be better if the seat belts were tighter,” one mother commented as she left one of the carts with her young daughter. She referred to the lap bar that tends to sit further forward than may be comfortable for some riders, giving some the feeling of being lifted off the seat during its steep drops.
Expecting a nice, breezy ride compared to the others, Lambert was surprised — and out of breath afterwards.
“I thought I was going to fly out, I’ve never felt so like … literally my butt was out of the seat, my legs were banging against the sides. It was the first drop and the second drop.”
To minimize the sliding around, it may help to have a partner to ride beside. And to have someone pose with on the second drop, where a camera takes a picture of your face at maximum gut-wrenching glory. Combined with reaching a speed of 45 miles per hour on its steepest descent, this coaster never gets boring.
2) Drop Zone
On the fear scale, this one should rank high with even the most extreme of thrill-seekers.
Lying horizontally, one to three people wear a harness attached to bungee-type rope and are cranked 100 feet into the air. A rip cord is pulled to send the rider soaring into a full free-fall swing — the catch being you’re in charge of pulling the cord yourself.
“I love that feeling when you’re dropping,” said Lambert beforehand. “That immediate rush you get is what I live for. Some people think they’re gonna throw up, and I’m just like, ‘This is amazing.’”
As the attendants strapped the harness on his body and leaned him forward across a bar before lifting him, anxiety kicked in and Lambert said he felt “horrified.”
But when it came time to lift off, Lambert didn’t hesitate. He ripped the cord and got sent flying towards the ground, head first, before swinging back up, then backward and forwards again. Each downward motion was followed with a wide-mouthed scream and wind rippling through his hair and cheeks.
As it began to slow, Lambert just held his chest and said, “Oh my God, I can’t even breathe.” After he got out of his straps, he said, “My heart is pounding like crazy. I’ve never had something take my breath away so quickly.”
Though there wasn’t any intense spinning, the motions have made vomit, or more specifically “protein-spills,” as called by PNE representative Laura Ballance, a thing to look out for sometimes.
“A little tip for people is when you see the rides where the operator is in an enclosed hut, you can largely guess that that might be a ride where you would have a higher percentage of a chance of getting sick,” said Ballance, who encourages people to get to know their limits.
Considering the Drop Zone was Lambert’s first ride of the day, and that he went twice in a row, as he did with all of the rides except one that day, he took it like a champ.
Finally, the Revelation takes our top spot as the scariest ride this year. One caged seat sits on each ends of a 160-feet-tall arm, which seats up to four people at one time (two in each cage). The arm spins around at warp speed like the minute-hand of a clock on fast-forward, which in turn rocks the cages with the momentum.
“Halfway through when it paused at the top, I was like, ‘Get me off this. I want down,’” said lambert.
The arm first spins clockwise then pauses a while before spinning counterclockwise.
The ride reaches up to 100 km/h and according to the website, the G forces felt are up to par with the kind actual fighter pilots experience.
“That was honestly probably the scariest thing I’ve ever been on,” said Lambert. “That was beyond anything. You’re literally being thrown through the air. I don’t know, I can’t even think straight. I felt at one point that I was actually flying out of the seat and was uncontrollably flying through the air.”
Though Lambert can cross a few rides off his PNE bucket list now, the Revelation might have been a one-time go. At least until next summer.
“I think I died halfway through, I think I died. My soul left my body. Or I just wanted to be dead, I’m not sure which.”
Visit pne.ca for a complete schedule.