15 Things I've Learned In 15 Years Of Being A Coaster Enthusiast

I realised (with horror) that this month marks a whopping FIFTEEN YEARS since my coaster nerdom way officiated when I made myself an account on theme park enthusiast forum CoasterForce, was back in the glorious Spring of 2005 (was it really glorious? Who knows, I certainly don't remember what the weather was like back then.) In that time we've seen all manner of change when it comes to being a coaster enthusiast, from the transition of our chosen arena of coaster nerd chat from humble website-centric forums and message boards to more open social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to the transformation of our beloved industry itself. Back in 2005 it was Intamin who reigned supreme with the likes of Expedition GeForce and Bizarro topping the infamous Mitch Hawker poll and the only time the letters RMC were mentioned was by Thorpe Park fanboys explaining how Ready Mix Concrete were the company responsible for turning the Nation's Thrill Capital from gravel pit to UK leisure icon.

Yes, it's certainly been an interesting fifteen years, especially considering the present situation where I type this blog post from the comfort of lockdown as a virus pandemic sweeps the entire world, and of course there's been a ton of stuff I've learned along the way. I've said many times that my involvement in the coaster enthusiast community has certainly been integral in shaping the person I am today from my political beliefs and opinions to my passion for travel and adventure. So I thought I'd take some time today to count down fifteen things I've learned in the fifteen years I've (officially) been a coaster enthusiast!

I remember so clearly joining the forum that fateful day and suddenly feeling overwhelmed with just how 'far behind' I felt in comparison to some of these seasoned veterans who'd been at this hobby a lot longer than I had and therefore were a lot better travelled than my 14 year old self (eg terrible eyeliner and probably wearing a David & Goliath t-shirt). I felt panicked, like I was late to a party and had to rush to catch up as quickly as possible. And the truth is, that urgency is good if you have the means (eg the CASH MONEY) to get yourself out there and start visiting the parks you want to go to but just hadn't gotten round to yet BUT for most of us travelling to all of these places takes years of time and saving and planning. Unless you're a millionaire who's inherited your dad's toaster strudel fortune or something most of us don't immediately have the kind of cash to jet off around the world visiting parks, so always remember to take a second to remind yourself of that before the jealousy monster sets in and you do something mad like getting yourself in a bunch of debt to ride all the B&Ms in the world. It's not worth it in the long run!

Despite what many an enthusiast may try and convince you, there truly isn't one way to be a 'proper' enthusiast. You don't have to have ridden a certain number of coasters or visited a certain quota of parks to be considered a 'true' fan - all you have to do is like theme parks and roller coasters a bit more than the average bear and...well that's it, you're a coaster enthusiast! Joining forums and coaster clubs and Facebook groups is a great way to get stuck into that enthusiasm in a bigger way but even then those aren't things you absolutely must do to enjoy this hobby. Hell, you don't even have to go to that many parks if it's something that's not in your power to do because of your age or financial situation. There are a plethora of ways to enjoy theme parks from using your annual pass to visit the same park every weekend, to watching POVs of coasters you know you may never have the opportunity to ride in real life to physically going the whole hog and travelling around Asia with the ECC, the opportunities are endless and every one of them has their benefits, just do what feels right to you and what you enjoy!

One of the stranger things I had to come to terms with after joining the forums was I was no longer the authority on all things theme park and there were tons of people on there who knew way more stuff than I did! It was a little jarring to get used to to be honest - growing up I was always the theme park kid, the one in the class who knew everything there was to do with coasters so to suddenly feel like I was bottom of the class in what would definitely be my chosen Mastermind subject caused me to have a mini-identity crisis. But the reality is that's kind of the case for everyone in the community - everybody seems to have their areas of expertise from the design nerds who go mad for aesthetic and architecture to the engineering and maths degree guys who have the innate ability to explain the extremely complicated physics behind coaster design in a way that I could digest and understand, everybody brings something slightly different to the table and approaches their enthusiasm in a slightly different way which makes for an excellent melting pot of nerdy coaster minds to share and learn from.

After the initial shock of realising you're no longer top of the coaster nerd class wears off, there will come a time when somebody asks a question on a forum or social platform and YOU WILL KNOW THE ANSWER. In your smooth, juicy theme park enthusiast brain you'll have locked away a nugget of niche information and NOW IS YOUR TIME FOR GLORY. You'll type a badass reply that not only answers the OP's question but you'll also throw in some links and sources to support your answer, maybe flesh it out a little with some extra curricular background knowledge that they didn't ask for but you know they'll appreciate because it gives better context and explanation to the thing they were asking for more information on in the first place and they will reply saying "thank you I didn't know this, this is very interesting!" and you'll say "you're welcome" and then log off and spend the rest of the day feeling like President and CEO of Coaster Nerd Town. Until somebody else comes in and elaborates on your point even further with even more knowledge but the fact remains that you knew the thing and were able to impart your wisdom and that is a wonderful thing.

Still to this day, even after having just spent ten weeks or something in lockdown surviving on nothing but theme park history YouTube channels, am I STILL learning about things I never knew existed. And I'm not talking about some rollercoaster minutia that I never would have been interested in knowing in the first place - I'm talking about entire theme park concepts or Disney park rides or defunct attractions whose existence had never even floated into my periphery. And as much as that astounds my arrogant side who surely by now must know everything there is about theme parks, it excites the childish, curious side of me as it keeps that flame of inquisition lit and spurs me to keep digging deeper to continue unearthing these juicy nuggets of theme park history. Delicious.

Something I get asked a lot by the normals is "doesn't it get boring?" Does travelling all over the world and enjoying my lifelong passion whilst getting to discover amazing new adventures with my friends whilst making lifelong memories get boring? No Karen, funnily enough it doesn't. I understand why people ask this as for your general human a trip to a theme park is a once a year thing tops and the idea of doing it over and over might quickly lose its appeal, but to those of us who are passionate about these things it does the exact opposite. Even if you go to the same park over and over, you only have to look at how many vlogs there are of the same park yet somehow all entirely unique in content to see just how much there is to do at these places and something different and exciting to enjoy every time. Honestly I don't think it's something I'll ever get bored of, whenever I get home from one park trip I'm usually already planning my next because the hobby is so delightfully unboring!

There's a common misconception that somehow 'theme park community' means we're all friends with everyone, which is of course an absurd notion. There's no society in the world where everybody gets along, humans just aren't programmed that way, and theme park enthusiasts are no different. And that's OK! I'm quite an extrovert and do enjoy chatting and talking to lots of different kinds of people, and it's taken me a long time and meeting a lot of different people from all over the world along the way to make peace with the fact that I won't like every coaster enthusiast I meet, despite us sharing a common interest. And indeed not every coaster enthusiast will like me. It's just human nature, and that's cool - we just need to co-exist peacefully though as despite there being a ton of theme park enthusiasts in the world it's still a fairly niche interest so chances are you'll continue to cross paths with people you don't get on with, especially if you like to go to parks and coaster club meet ups.

As you visit more parks and experience a wider variety of rides and styles, you'll hone in on what specifically you love in a ride. Some might refer to this as being a bit snobbish but honestly I see nothing wrong with simply knowing what you like! I remember back in the day when I first joined I was a bit of a B&M stan and adored all of their coasters, but as time as gone on they've fallen by the wayside in my opinion with companies like Intamin, RMC and even the new Vekomas offering something a little more innovative, varied and thrilling. I always knew I enjoyed a launch coaster since my very first ride on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, I now know I adore a launch coaster and they're easily one of my favourite coaster types. Looking back over the years at my different Top 10 lists it's interesting to note that I've never really been fond of inversions or anything overly forceful, I now know that my body simply can't hack anything overly sustained in terms of intensity and I loathe hangtime that's not accompanied by high speed. The more you experience the more refined your tastes will become.

And I'm not just talking about the one at Cedar Point (lolol.) I'm talking about a certain subset of enthusiasts who think your opinion is not valid/you're not welcome because they don't consider you knowledgable or worthy enough to join the conversation. Sadly these exist and sadly I know many instances where friends of mine have come up against these gatekeepers and were deterred for years from diving head first into their enthusiasm. Gatekeeping is bullshit - as I said above there's no quota you need to meet to join in with the discussion. Gladly it does seem to be more of an 'old school' forum or club behaviour and is something we're seeing die out but what I'd say is that if you come up against gatekeeping behaviour please don't be discouraged, just slowly back away from that organisation and try a different angle! In my experience CoasterForce were incredibly welcoming to my naive, wide-eyed coaster enthusiasm all those years ago so just keep trying until you find somewhere you feel comfortable.

The kids these days will know these better as 'stans' which is arguably a much more inclusive term but back in my early forum days we called them fanboys - those who built their entire persona around the one thing in the industry they ADORED and would be the hill they were willing to die on in any argument. You might not consider yourself a fanboy to start off with, but the further you fall down the rabbit hole the more your eyes will open to the coaster or park or manufacturer that you absolutely cannot get enough of and whose honour you would willingly lay your life down to protect. Even if deep down you KNOW the arguments being made against the thing are perfect logical and valid, you just will not face the truth and instead prefer to don the rose-coloured glasses and sweep all that bad stuff under the rug. Which is fine, it's only theme parks at the end of the day!

When you first join in with some theme park chat you most likely consider yourself a measured and reasonably person. Somebody who enjoys a roller coaster or two, sure, but certainly not one of those theme park crazed nuts whom you've seen foaming at the mouth like a rabid security dog should somebody dare to make a perfectly valid criticism of a coaster in their Top 10. Surely not you? HA! Think that all you want but don't come crying to me the day you feel the dagger of pure hatred in your gut when you see somebody slagging off your favourite coaster. You know it's completely illogical - it's just a ride, you'll tell yourself. But it'll be too late, you'll already have seen red and before you know it it's 3AM and you're still sat in bed seethingly composing a tweet back to somebody in a different time zone as to why Taron IS in fact the best coaster in the world and they're obviously defective as a human for daring to consider otherwise. Our passion will truly consume us all in the end.

I'll say it louder for those in the back - DO NOT BELIEVE THE HYPE. If you want a Fastlane ticket to Disappointmentville then by all means, listen to everyone telling you how amazing [insert flavour of the month coaster here] is. In my earlier coaster enthusiast years I fell for this a bunch of times and honestly it's devastating, especially if you've travelled a long way and spent a fair bit of cash to get to the coaster or park in question. I once had an older enthusiast once describe Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce as 'the best sex you've ever had times ten' and after being so pumped to finally get to the park to ride this legendary coaster all I have to say to that comment is wow, you must have had some really bad sex in your life because MAN! Not that the coaster was terrible, it just wasn't life-changing? I just don't think it's fair to build up somebody's expectations like that when individual coaster experiences are so subjective. My best advice is to listen to as few reviews as possible and make up your own mind, that way the actual experience won't have that unobtainable fantasy experience in your head to live up to.

And that doesn't just go for coaster enthusiasts either! Being an enthusiast of anything means you're passionate about something and not afraid to show it. Being a coaster enthusiast means you're passionate about something a little weird and unusual and not afraid to show it, and in my experience passionate weirdos tend to be the best kind of people. I can't imagine anything more dull than not having anything to be hyped up or excited about, and honestly I absolutely adore interacting with people about things they're passionate about and seeing their eyes light up as they go off on a tangent about their favourite thing in the world. That buzz is addictive and especially in action - some of the best days at parks I've ever had are those I've shared with people who are as nerdy about this stuff as I am where we all just bounce off of each other's excitement grinning from ear to ear the entire time. Don't get me wrong, visiting with non-enthusiast family and friends is great too but there's certainly nothing like the excitement of a big enthusiast holiday or day out, especially if it's to a park you've never been to before and haven't had a chance to become disenchanted by!

I truly feel for those who had niche interests before the days of the internet where it's quite easy to connect with like-minded people. It's bizarre to think that it used to be that you essentially had your classroom or local clubs in your immediate area to build your friendship group for life from and if you couldn't find somebody from that tiny pool of people who shared your interest then you were basically screwed. We're very lucky to have literally hundreds of enthusiasts all connected now and some of the strongest and longest friendships I personally have were built on a foundation of coaster enthusiasm. Nowadays that comes secondary to other general life stuff but that mutual interest is what has kept up close over the years and I'm so grateful for this crazy hobby for bringing some of the people I love the most into my life. And because of how social media is the turnstiles keep spinning and you never know when some new weird and wonderful goon is going to stumble into your life and change it for the better, which is equally as fab!

And for all the things that have changed over the years there are of course some things that will always stand the test of time. And that thing of course, is that Vekoma SLCs remain the ultimate worst.

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With that said, here's to another fifteen years. My tiny theme-park-knowledge bloated brain can only dream to imagine what developments and wonders the next decade and a half will bring but honestly as long as it doesn't involve any more long periods of park closure I'll certainly be happy about it! How long have you been a coaster enthusiast for? What have you learned from this hobby? Let me know in the comments!

Talk later xoxo,










3 comments

  1. On the "you won't be friends with everyone"... Been there, done that. I had disagreements shall we say, with the homophobia demonstrated by certain rather prominent individuals in coaster fandom. As a younger rather more aggressive message board poster the rage I had over this spilled over. Caused upset with some real friends too. In practice, its not worth it. Ijust walked away from the offending club - they want to take that line that's their business.

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  2. I thought Spinning Coasters with OTSR's were the worst.

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  3. Started in grade school I grew up at Six Flags Great America with my family every weekend we would basically go there to have fun as a family and it’s still my home park to this day however I’m extremely shy so tend to stay alone

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