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Photograph by Pete Saporito
Bella of the Boardwalk: The ornately painted Sea Swings ride was built in Italy.

Cheap Thrill

The Boardwalk's new Sea Swings ride simulates flight for a song

By Michelle Camerlingo

SEVEN-year-old Mahayelea Florez tugs on one of her pigtails curiously while waiting in line with her mom to ride Sea Swings, the newest addition to the Boardwalk's family of rides. "It doesn't look scary," she says, taking in the parade of swings whirling overhead. Finally tall enough to ride alone, Florez is relieved she isn't one of the many smaller kids getting turned away and sends her mom to wait at the exit where other parents are busy snapping photos.

The Sea Swings took residence on the Boardwalk block overlooking Main Beach in November, and this year marks its first full season. It replaced the Typhoon, the dual hammer-shaped ride that, according to staff, was losing popularity. Built in Italy, then assembled in Santa Cruz, the Sea Swings stands 36 feet tall. Fiberglass chairs hang suspended from chains that lift and spin on a rotating center axle, whirling riders up and over the sand--sometimes flinging flip-flops along the way. While Florez was midride, the little girl next to her lost her shoe in the sand.

After everyone is buckled in, the chairs lift and the ride starts slowly before picking up speed. Riders are suspended around full circle as its 54-foot-long chains splay outward. Around each bend the swings are forced into a ticklish dip, causing squeals and flutters.

It's one of those rides that make you feel weightless, both physically and emotionally. Something about being propelled through the ocean air, feet dangling and with a dumb grin, is instantly gratifying--you feel young again. 

An old-school vibe gives the Sea Swings its charm. The spinning-top canopy and central column feature bright art-deco flourishes and vintage scenes of surfers and sunbathers from the Boardwalk's past. The old photographs were carefully selected from historical archives before being rendered into paintings for the ride.

The ride proved popular with vacationers in April, and if a recent sunny Saturday is any indication, Sea Swings has a busy summer ahead--the line was consistently full throughout the afternoon. Florez gave her seal of approval as she skipped down the exit to meet her mom. "I would definitely ride it again," she said. "It feels like flying."

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