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A new generation of giant Texas roller coasters promises to drop you further and soak you to the skin

a wide view of a roller coaster's tracks and towers
Six Flags Over Texas
The Aquaman Power Wave at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.

From Texas Standard:

Texas amusement parks have long been home to memorable roller coasters. This year, two new-generation coasters are set to bring even higher highs and steeper drops to Texas thrill-seekers.

Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington will soon be home to Aquaman: Power Wave, a mammoth "wet" roller coaster. In San Antonio, Dr. Diabolical's Cliffhanger, a so-called dive coaster, will debut at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Andrea Luttrell wrote about these new giant coasters for Texas Highways magazine. She told Texas Standard that she, like many roller coaster fans, feels nostalgia for the rides she loved as a kid, including the Texas Giant at Six Flags in Arlington.

"I remember waiting in line for hours, and it was totally worth it," Luttrell said. "It was a wooden roller coaster, with this incredibly steep first drop. And it would just shake you, where your bones rattled."

The Texas Giant was rebuilt to be a hybrid roller coaster, now known as the New Texas Giant. The combination of a wooden base and a metal upper section provides a particularly smooth ride, Luttrell says.

This spring, Luttrell took her first roller coaster ride in two years. She says getting back out there after pandemic lockdowns led to closed amusement parks felt great.

"There's so much to be afraid of in the world, and having that controlled fear that you get to conquer – you see something that's scary and then you get up to the top and you just feel like you've climbed Everest, you've met a challenge. It feels so good," she said.

Texas, and Six Flags in Arlington, have been important to the development of roller coasters. Luttrell says that Six Flags opened the first log flume and mine train rides – smaller-scale coasters that eventually appeared in Disney parks and elsewhere, too.

This year's Texas roller coaster launches are more ambitious.

"They're going to press the bounds of physics as much as they can to give their visitors the best ride possible," Luttrell said.

Aquaman: Power Wave is a shuttle coaster.

"If you picture a big 'U'," Luttrell said, "you go up one side and down the other, and there's a big reservoir at the bottom. So on your last pass, you create this huge wave, which I'm sure in the Texas August is gonna be a big deal, because you will get soppy wet."

Luttrell says Dr. Diabolical's Cliffhanger is so intense she might remain a spectator for awhile. It's a "dive coaster" with an ultra-steep drop.

"It has a 95-degree drop," she said. "So what that means is, you go up the first hill and you look straight down and it hangs you there for a second to build anticipation, and you're literally sort of looking into the abyss, because you can't see the roller coaster tracks underneath you."

Luttrell says the "everything's bigger in Texas" ethos probably has a lot to do with why the state's roller coasters have been ground-breaking over the years.

"We love to be bold and audacious," she said. "And I think we're looking to beat the [last] thing that we've done, and I love that."

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.