Fear of roller coasters & theme park rides


Most Singaporeans love theme parks. We jump for joy when we get to visit Universal Studios Singapore, and checking out overseas theme parks is practically a must for holiday itineraries. That said, the main highlight of theme parks is arguably the rides. And for many people, the more thrilling, the better. But what about folks who have a fear of roller coasters

Fellow adrenaline-wimps like myself are sure to relate to that underlying feeling of being a burden, especially when the rest of the group is psyched to conquer various extreme rides. Here’s my journey towards accepting that this fear doesn’t make me any less “fun”. And wouldn’t you know it, my company had to send me on a skydiving trip* for me to get here.

*Spoiler alert: I was too kiasi to go through with it.


What makes a roller coaster so scary?


First things first, let me put it out there that I don’t have a fear of heights. I’m comfortable even in Singapore’s tallest buildings, and can even trudge across see-through skybridges like the one at Jewel Changi without a smidge of fear.

Sky Garden 50th Floor - The Pinnacle@Duxton
That’s me (left) chilling on the 50th floor sky garden at The Pinnacle@Duxton, totally unfazed.

I’m also fine with flying in aeroplanes, save for those bumpy bounces upon landing which feel like a roller coaster in itself.

Now, if I’m really pushing myself to face my fears, I dare say that even the speed of roller coasters is manageable for me. With speed and height out of the way, here are the aspects of roller coasters and theme park rights which I cannot and will not attempt to deal with:

  1. The “floaty heart” feeling at sudden drops, where you feel like your heart is floating in mid-air within your chest before sinking into your gut.
  2. The fear that I might fall right out of my seat when the ride has loops or upside-down hangs.
  3. The extreme plummeting sensation and loss of control when the ride rolls backwards.

Ski Simulator
Here I am trying out indoor skiing, also for work purposes. Let’s just say, being at the mercy of gravity and physics is not something I’m particularly fond of.


How my fear of roller coasters started


The ride that started it all? None other than Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Singapore.

The year was 2016; I went on a wholesome family trip to the theme park for the first time in my life, with childlike excitement in my heart. But everything changed when my dad, my sister and I decided to go on this cool-looking “mummy ride”. My actual Mummy opted to wait outside, how foolish of me not to join her.

Universal Studios Singapore USS Egyptian Mascots
Me in the Ancient Egypt zone, snapping pics with hunky mascots moments before disaster.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

Initially geared up for thrills and spills, my soul left my physical being as soon as the ride dipped backwards and started charging at ungodly speeds. I remember screaming till my throat went hoarse for a brief moment, thereafter going silent and just looking around. I kid you not…Because the ride was underground and in the dark, I legit thought that I had passed away.

Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios Singapore) - [POV Video]
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Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios Singapore) - [POV Video]

A small taste of how terrifying the ride is.

You think I’m exaggerating, but to that I say: “骗你有钱拿啊?” (Lie to you, got money ah?)

I seriously thought I was in the afterlife, and sort of relaxed spiritually and emotionally while still gripping tightly onto the handles, wondering why it was so dark and topsy-turvy in the netherworld. Eventually, the ride came to a halt and that’s when I looked around, surprised and of course, relieved to discover that I was still alive and in one piece.

My younger sis was equally traumatised and had been screeching like a banshee the whole ride, apparently. But I was so scared that I tuned out the noise completely. Meanwhile, my father absolutely loved the ride and was raring for another round. #cantrelate

Shock Zoned Out From Roller Coaster
My mum snapped this pic of me zoning out on the Sesame Street ride afterwards, trying to recover from shock. As you can see, I was in a different dimension altogether.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

People say, “don’t yuck my yum”. So while I find the Revenge of the Mummy terrifying beyond belief and probably will never climb into its seats for the rest of this lifetime, I totally get why it’s such an immensely popular ride.

In fact, I wholeheartedly recommend it to my thrill-seeking friends who find it a joy to be tossed and whipped around at high speeds. You definitely get what you pay for!


Going for outings & holidays as someone with a fear of roller coasters


It’s not uncommon to spot people chilling at theme parks, waiting on benches or being on bag-guarding duty for the rest of the gang as they conquer one scary ride after the other. The FOMO is real when it comes to being the odd one out, in groups of friends or family members who all love roller coasters and are planning a theme park outing.

If it’s an overseas trip and the itinerary includes a theme park visit, you’re pretty much forced to tag along instead of deviating from the group in a foreign land. 

Chimelong Paradise, Guangzhou China - Spinning Sombrero Ride
Me in a theme park in China, rushing to get off the ride even though it’s a tame one that’s literally in the kiddy section. Meanwhile, my dad is probably thinking “where the real rides at?”.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

On the topic of overseas trips and feeling like you’re obliged to tag along on theme park outings, I recently went on a work trip to Gold Coast. 

A city which is most known for its beaches and next-level theme parks. 

I knew I was in for a doozy.


Facing my fear of roller coasters on a work trip


Fate certainly has a sense of humour. For someone who’s such a scaredy cat when it comes to theme park rides, the work trip itinerary I was given featured a theme park visit on none other than Day 1, as the first item on the agenda. My team and I went to Dreamworld Gold Coastthe largest amusement park in all of Australia, known for having some seriously terrifying rides.

Steel Taipan, Dreamworld Gold Coast - Fear Of Roller Coasters

This is the Steel Taipan, a high-level thrill ride with backwards launches – AKA my worst enemy, acceleration speeds of up to 105km/h, and something that makes me weak in the knees just thinking about it: rear seats which spin 360° freely throughout the ride.

I remember wishing with all my heart that just one other person in the travel group was a fellow adrenaline wimp, getting the ball rolling on the “nope, I’ll sit out of this one!” confessions. Alas, everyone was pumped and ready to go.

I didn’t want to be a party pooper, especially in the presence of industry peers. So I went ahead with the ride, heart pounding out of my chest the whole time we were waiting in line. I held onto that hope that, perhaps after all these years, I’ve gotten over this fear. Maybe I’m an adrenaline junkie now!

Fear Of Roller Coasters - Steel Taipan Dreamworld
Image credit: Renae Cheng

The moment the roller coaster took its first dip, I realised that was far from the truth. I was so paralysed with fear that I decided to close my eyes for the rest of the ride about 1/3 of the way in, activating my inner zen mode while everyone else was screaming ecstatically.

For the rest of the day, I politely declined to join all other rides that are any more thrilling than a slow and mellow Ferris wheel or merry-go-round. I knew that if I had forced myself to follow along, I’d have to deal with the agonising dread; that feeling of my heart pounding so hard I can literally hear a thumping from my chest, and a lump in my throat as if I were about to hurl.

Superman Escape - Fear Of Roller Coasters
Funny how this roller coaster is called Superman Escape, as that’s exactly what I did. 

Instead, I sat comfortably on a bench and watched as the rides whizzed by and thrillseekers had the time of their lives screaming. That, in itself, was more fun and entertaining than if I were to take the ride myself.


Knowing when to say no when it comes to something you’re afraid of


After the theme park outing, I thought I made some sort of breakthrough when it came to voicing out my boundaries and concerns. That was put to the test on the very last day of my work trip, where the agenda was to go skydiving.

Paragliding In Switzerland
My colleague living her best life, paragliding in Switzerland. I could never!
Photo for illustration purposes only.

If being able to hang onto a safety-tested roller coaster ride for dear life made me that scared, free-falling from thousands of feet in the sky petrified me about a thousandfold. 

Helicopter Pad
Image credit: Renae Cheng

Once again, the entire rest of the travel group was beyond psyched for it. They were taking photos and videos of themselves against the helicopter which would be bringing us on the ascent, and vlogging about it with such glee that this was clearly something that was high on their bucket list. Meanwhile, I was ready to kick the bucket just to get out of this situation.

It would’ve been nice to tell you, dear reader, that I confronted my demons and went ahead with the skydiving activity, and how it’s made me a better person now. Instead, I remember crossing my fingers, toes, and all other crossable joints in the hope of a last-minute cancellation. A miracle, if you will.

Posing With Helicopter
Smiling on the outside, but holding back tears. My hands were also working their way to being clasped in prayer.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

And as if I had manifested it with the might of all my heart, a storm came brewing. It was official, the sudden change in weather made it impossible to conduct the activity, and it was cancelled without a possibility of postponement since we were flying home to Singapore the next day. 

Don’t judge me for this next part…but I chimed in on the chorus of disappointed awwws with the rest of the group as their highlight of the whole trip was dashed, so close to fruition. But unbeknownst to them (until they read this article, of course), I was whooping and cheering in my heart, thanking every god in existence for coming in clutch.

Black Clouds Stormy Skies
Black clouds consumed the skies as we headed back to the hotel. Everyone was deeply saddened and disappointed, but a giant wave of relief washed over me.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

In retrospect, I can’t shake the feeling that I was that close to doing something I was so scared of, there’s a high chance that I would’ve passed out in midair. Would I have found the courage to at least tell someone that I wanted to, nay – needed to bail?

After much contemplation, I came to the conclusion that life is too short to spend time feeling frozen in fear, either forcing yourself to do things you’re not keen on or being too passive to voice out your discomfort. 


Having a fear of roller coasters doesn’t make you any less “fun”


In the early 2010s, the term YOLO was coined. People use this “you only live once” mantra to justify doing wild and wacky things, but I’m very comfortable chilling on the other end of the spectrum. In fact, since we only live once, it’s all the more reason that we should live by our own terms of what “fun” means.

Skyline Luge Sentosa, Merry Go Round
The chairlift ride to Skyline Luge Sentosa looks like a blast, but I’ll stick to humble merry-go-rounds, thank you very much.
Photo for illustration purposes only.

Just like there are people who love being active and conquering various hiking trails and cycling routes any chance they get, there are also folks who find great joy and satisfaction in the couch potato life.

So while it’s easy to see why those thrilling next-level rides are such a hit among adrenaline junkies, there’s no reason for adrenaline-averse people to put themselves through the torment just to avoid FOMO.

Not only could your time be better spent on something you actually enjoy, but there’s no point dealing damage to both your soul and your physical being from all that amplified fear and stress.

Universal Studios Singapore - Sesame StreetThere are plenty of other things to do in Universal Studios Singapore alone, from tame rides to live performances.
Photo for illustration purposes only.

If you’re worried about being a burden, take comfort in knowing that your friends are likely to not hesitate at all to accommodate your concerns, whether that means taking turns to chill with you when the others go on rides, or accompanying you on the tamer rides like a good ol’ merry-go-round.

While others are ticking wild and thrilling activities off their bucket list, this year I achieved a chapter of growth. I was moments away from climbing aboard a helicopter which I was to then jump off of.

But if it allowed me to learn the valuable lesson that having a fear of roller coaster rides and other daredevil activities doesn’t make me any less “fun” to hang out or travel with, well. I’d say it was worth the dried mouth, tightened throat and sweaty pits from sheer stress and nervosity!

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