Shockwave at Drayton Manor opened in 1994, alongside two other ground-breaking roller coasters: Nemesis and The Big One, and put the relatively unknown park on the UK Theme Park map. The only stand-up coaster with a zero-G roll in the world and only one of two rides of its kind in Europe, Shockwave is the park’s biggest ride and, though Drayton Manor has turned its attention more towards a younger audience, it is still a major thrill coaster for the UK. However, with Drayton Manor’s permanent closure of G Force and family focus, as well as the worldwide trend of converting stand-up coasters into sit downs, will Shockwave manage to survive? Let’s get down to the review.
Manufactured by Intamin, Shockwave reaches speeds of 53mph with a total of 4 inversions across the track layout. The ride has a height of 36.5m (119.7ft) and a drop of 32m (105ft). It lasts for 2 minutes along a track length of 500m (1640 ft). With a height restriction of 1.4m, the restraints are fairly old-fashioned and strange, using an L shaped restraint, a fixed bar and a seat which adjusts to the height of the individual riding. There are 2 trains, one painted red and one painted blue, each with 6 cars arranged in rows of 4 allowing for 24 riders per train.
The ride doesn’t have a huge amount of theming and doesn’t have any kind of backstory either. The building that houses much of the queue line and station is made up to look kind of like a run-down fisherman’s shack with a blue wood effect. It looks pretty good and could definitely pave the way for a full theme. Bits of machinery are strewn around the outdoor queue and lanterns light the way indoors. I don’t really know what the story is that they’re trying to hint at or even exactly what the theme is. The ride track itself is blue though and fits nicely with the façade. From the ride, you can see into the old Splash Canyon rapids that have been closed for the last few years after a tragic accident in 2017. From the looks of things, this ride had a similar theme and probably tied the area together a lot better than the current mismatch. With the incredibly high standard of theming on other rides in the park, it is a shame that Shockwave hasn’t received the same treatment as the likes of Accelerator or Storm Force 10, both with amazing physical theming. It would definitely benefit from a bit more in my opinion, especially since the façade looks really interesting from the outside.
The queue for Shockwave, unfortunately, is a HUGE cattle pen queue that trails forward and backward, forward and backward, forward and backward, separated by poles and chains. Starting outside, this zigzag goes around a few pieces of machinery theming but little else. As you enter the indoors queue, it gets worse. This wooden building acts kind of like a greenhouse and, if the sun is even remotely shining, it becomes unbearably hot. We went first thing in the morning for our ride on Shockwave and the heat was already becoming uncomfortable. The queue inside is again cattle pen style and this doesn’t help the heat as it means there’s a lot of people cramped into a relatively small space. If you’re claustrophobic, this may be an issue, especially when having to queue on the narrow staircase up to the station. While Drayton Manor has some great queue lines, this is not one of them.
When you manage to get to the station, if you’re not sick of cattle pens then you’re in luck as there’s even more as you zigzag up the side of the track. There is a video that shows you how to use the restraints which I recommend actually watching as they’re pretty strange compared to other restraint systems even on other stand up rides. The queue splits in two so that you can queue for the front row seats if you want to. This is always a bit of fun for the novelty of an unobstructed view but really doesn’t make for a much different ride experience and could add time onto your wait. Operations were very slow on our visit, especially as only one train was running, which means that queuing for the front could definitely be a huge increase for your waiting time if the loading is not efficient.
Once you’re boarded, you have to sort out the restraints. This means straddling a seat that is suited to the last rider’s height. I’m a very average height and the seat was far too high for me to get on comfortably and far too heavy for me to push down before I was sat on it. It took me an age to even get on the seat before I then had to push it down with my body weight to an appropriate height. Your arm slides into the fixed half of the restraint and you pull down the other side to meet it. The seat then completely locks, without warning may I add, so be sure you’re ready as fast as possible to avoid either riding on your tip toes or squatting for the whole ride.
As the ride begins, you’re taken up the lift hill and the views are definitely worth it to see the fields and hills rolling in the distance. Unfortunately at the moment, you’re also overlooking a rather sad drained rapids ride. Once you begin to drop, the ride really kicks in with the zero-G roll, an inline twist and a double corkscrew. There are definitely a few rough moments, particularly on that first loop, that can send your head flying into the restraints but if you stay braced, you should be okay. The ride otherwise is very enjoyable and a completely unique experience for the UK. The sensation of riding a coaster standing up is so strange and going through 4 inversions is a feeling you won’t soon be forgetting. Shockwave does have a strange moment where the track levels off and you are moving in a straight line. The ride feels fairly slow on this section and feels completely out of place on a thrill coaster. Other than that though, the ride is a lot of fun and, though short and over too quickly, Shockwave gets the job done.
My thoughts on Shockwave are very mixed. The ride itself? Great fun, unique and exciting. Some of those elements are exhilarating and doing them standing up is a sensation that no other coaster in the UK (or world for that zero-G roll!) can deliver. Twisting and turning through the track with views of the Staffordshire countryside and the park make for a really pleasant ride experience. What lets Shockwave down is its queue and its restraints. With such wonderful examples of queue lines around Drayton Manor, the fact that, for Shockwave, you are cramped into a dark and exceptionally warm building with few windows and little to look at other than plain walls and lanterns is just really sad. The restraints are old fashioned, uncomfortable and confusing. With another stand up restraint just across the park on Apocalypse, you’d think Drayton Manor would get these updated to something just as safe but miles less unpleasant. I think Shockwave is a decent ride and, credit where it is due, is still managing to deliver a lot of thrills and fun 25 years on. I wish there was some more TLC given to the ride that could really elevate the experience. I give Shockwave a 5/10. The ride is a lot of fun and I definitely appreciate having such a unique coaster in the UK but will it stay in its current state? Only time will tell.