One of the biggest mysteries in the theme park world is the B&M Surf Coaster. It’s a mystery because even though the name popped up a few years ago, nobody seems to know what it is.
RUMOR: Some sites have speculated that this discontinued concept for Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is actually a B&M Surf Coaster, mainly because it snakes like a surfer traversing a wave above what looks like an elaborate tidepool or waterfall.
TRUTH: This piece of art came from a themed entertainment design firm as part of a larger concept package for the park and is not from B&M (note it’s a two-across train, not the four-across B&M is known for). Which firm? Frankly, I don’t know. The government and the park haven’t made that public and there’s likely an NDA involved. Based on the art style (I’m guessing here, so don’t hold me to), it looks like it could be from PGAV Destinations.
RUMOR: Patent images sprang up on a fan site showcasing the unique design of the Surf Coaster cars.
TRUTH: After this “fact” spread like wildfire throughout the internet, someone took the time to look at the original patent and realized it was actually Vekoma’s.
SO…..what is the surf coaster?
We know that it’s scheduled to open in 2021….make that 2022….make that 2023 at SeaWorld Orlando. Its being installed under the codename “Project Penguin.”
We know from a lien filed in 2020 against the park that it’s a launch coaster. It won’t be B&M’s first – think of the Thunderbird wing coaster at Holiday World.
We know that Surf Coaster is an actual trademark filed by B&M that covers roller coaster track and cars.
Now, the important thing to keep in mind here is that just because a trademark covers a group of items, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything listed in the trademark filing will be used under that trademark, let alone anything at all. B&M could decide that they want the name Surf Coaster to apply just to the track, or just to the cars. Or they might use a different name altogether for either or both. Remember Twisted Tiger or Uproar? These were unused trademarks filed by SeaWorld for what became Tigris.
CONCLUSION: Here’s ThemedReality speculation #282. Surf Coaster is a stretch of track and a modification to the cars that together comprise a new braking system.
Many of us are familiar with B&M’s fin system installed on a number of dive coasters and the Diamondback hypercoaster at Kings Island. Fins on the back of the train scoop water up into a huge fan which, at a number of parks, drenches bystanders.
Well, $580 in unmarked bills paid in a parking lot across the ally from a DC laundromat gave me access to patent 7,430,966 B2, “Brake, Vehicle, and Roller Coaster Circuit.” According to the abstract, the patent covers “A roller coaster installation comprising a stretch of water, along which runs a train of vehicles provided laterally with hydrodynamic brakes comprising a fin or a nozzle, becoming immersed in the mass of water and discharging this in the form of rising sprays.”
And the patent’s owner?
In essence, the train’s brake run is powered by water. It’ like those fins on the existing coasters, but the water is routed to the side, away from the riders, along the length of the train, giving the impression that the train is breaking through a pair of waves. Kind of like that fake effect on SeaWorld Orlando’s Manta, but much much bigger and real.
BONUS: A seven year plan for SeaWorld
None of these are my concepts. I’ve heard some of them from financial analysts, theme park consultants, and economists. I’ve read some of them publicly in papers as varied as the Orlando Business Journal and Orlando Weekly. What I’m doing here is taking what others have proposed and sticking them together into one big five-point plan.
Before I continue, keep in mind that during this seven-year period it is highly likely that SeaWorld will be acquired. Currently, very few theme park companies outside of China have the resources to purchase the company. The likely contender, as has been for the past three years, will be a hedge fund.
- Split the company into three distinct operating entities: the current SeaWorld, which will continue park operations, a REIT to control the valuable real estate, especially those in high-growth areas such as Orlando and San Antonio, and a 501(c) to maintain ownership and husbandry of the animal collection.
- In five years, the REIT will sell the company’s properties in Florida and Texas to outside developers, with an extended two year lease for the parks.
- During those two years, the parks will relocate. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will be combined into a mega-resort in Polk County.
- SeaWorld will partner with local zoos on new properties. The San Antonio Zoo has already announced its intention to create a safari park on the outskirts of town. This new property would be an ideal place to relocate SeaWorld and its waterpark, with the SeaWorld REIT investing in the property to reduce the Zoo’s costs.
- San Diego cannot be transformed into a pure coaster park. The current lease with the City of San Diego (note Sesame Place San Diego is actually in the City of Chula Vista) requires half of the park space be dedicated to aquariums and animal exhibits. This can likely be amended to allow for media-based exhibits to replace live animal exhibition. Another option is to partner with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on the property, retheming it to the oceans of the world, with a combination of marine animals and land animals from territories bordering the oceans (i.e. Galapagos, Australia). If this happens, the small number of coasters can be relocated to other SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks, though they could stay considering there are a few non-profit zoos that currently house coasters and other thrill rides.