DISCLOSURE: I experienced this ride as part of a media event for which I was invited by SeaWorld Orlando. This review is based on my own opinion and perspective, and the special access granted by SeaWorld did not come with any promises from me that I would review the ride favorably.
Don’t call it a standup coaster.
That was SeaWorld Orlando’s message last year when it unveiled Pipeline, dubbing it instead the first-ever “surf coaster.”
But it wasn’t an unfair comparison to make. The ride is designed by the legendary Swiss coaster firm Bolliger & Mabillard, whose past creations included SeaWorld’s own Kraken and Mako, but also standup coasters.
Or at least, that was among their offerings until the last one opened in 1999. Four of the seven standups built by B&M have since been converted to sit-down trains due to frequent complaints of discomfort.
Riders will once again be in a standing position on Pipleline, so experienced coaster fans were understandably skeptical, myself included. Everything else about the coaster — its 60 miles per hour launch, five airtime moments, the “wave curl” inversion — will be overshadowed if you come off in pain like the older standup coasters.
Here’s the launch on Pipeline. Definitely a new sensation doing this while standing. pic.twitter.com/hYP05UOLDg
— Theme Park Tribune (@themeparktrib) May 11, 2023
Which is why the first question that has to be asked about Pipeline is…
Is it comfortable?
I won’t mince words about old B&M standup coasters: I despise them. I’ve ridden several — including The Riddler at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Georgia Scorcher at Six Flags Over Georgia — that are purportedly among the best the model delivers. All of them have felt like torture devices to me, offering more leg and groin pain than any coaster thrills.
Thankfully for this 30-something body of mine, Pipeline truly is a different and much more comfortable experience.
If you’ve ridden older standups, you’ll immediately feel the difference getting into Pipeline’s trains. I felt more supported and the “bounce” in the seats was obvious. Rather than forcing you to stand nearly rigid, Pipeline allows you to easily bend your knees and move the seat up or down along with it. I could’ve easily ridden it a few times in a row without
The B&M vest restraints do bring some pain to the ride by placing an unpleasant weight on your shoulders and collarbone. Still, it’s minor compared to what the old standups inflict on you.
The ride experience
Another way that Pipeline improved on the old standups is by focusing on airtime, not inversions.
That starts halfway through the ride’s 60 miles per launch with a small airtime hill. That’s a tiny bounce compared to the floating sensations you’ll experience through several points of the ride, including the 110-foot-tall overbanked turn, the drop into the water fountain area (more on that below), and the hill following the so-called “wave curl” inversion.
Airtime is nothing new for coaster enthusiasts, but having it happen while standing — and then having your legs fly up as you float up and then back down — is a fascinating new sensation. In fact, the one inversion felt overshadowed by the airtime moments, including a surprising pop at the end of the ride.
This one piece of track just before the last turnaround seems like nothing special when you’re off the ride, but it delivered one of those legs-in-the airtime moments, made even better because I wasn’t expecting it.
The ride has two shortcomings, the first being its short duration. There’s just about 48 seconds from the launch to the final brakes, which is roughly three-fourths of what SeaWorld Orlando’s headliner, Mako, offers. That’s not bad from a coaster perspective, but holds the ride back from being among the park’s top tier. For all the good airtime, the small plot of land keeps Pipeline as only capable of being a supporting coaster rather than a headliner.
My second issue are the helixes in the second half. While there is still some airtime, three helix-style elements in a row felt repetitive. Perhaps a future “surf coaster” will have more space.
Coaster fans don’t always care about theming, but some SeaWorld and Busch Gardens diehards do, and they have noted the chain’s de-emphasis on it in recent years.
While Pipeline doesn’t return to the days of Journey to Atlantis- or even Kraken-level theming in the queue, it’s not as bare bones as Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg either. The landscaping in and around Pipeline is above what you’d see at Six Flags and most Cedar Fair park. In one case, it enhances the ride with the water fountain feature I mentioned earlier.
The surf theme is an obvious one. Maybe there was some paint left over from Universal’s Endless Summer Resort? It doesn’t detract from the ride area, though I wouldn’t say it improves it much either.
Pipeline delivers what I consider to be the first enjoyable coaster experience that I’ve ever had while standing up. The surprising airtime is diminished only by its short length and some repetitiveness in its second half.
This is a great supporting coaster to SeaWorld Orlando’s growing collection. If you’ve ridden a standup coaster before, don’t let those past pains keep you away. And if you haven’t ridden a standup coaster before, well….this is really a “surf coaster!”