KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - Some bounce up the 264 steps. Some walk with trepidation. And once they are launched down the world's tallest water coaster, fists are clenched and screams fill the air.
Schlitterbahn finally opened Verr├╝ckt on Wednesday to dignitaries and members of the media including KCTV5 anchors Carolyn Long and Brad Stephens and reporter Emily Rittman.
Whether the screams are joy or terror is up for debate as riders teeter over the edge and look up at the sky.
"You can't see anything. You're coming over that first drop. You don't see the slide or anything," said Phillip Brown of BPU. "All of a sudden you're just kind of airborne for a second and then just a rush especially when the blasters hit you."
The relief is also palatable when many riders step off into the water at the bottom of the ride.
"My heart was in my throat," Stephens said. "The first drop, I mean, you can't describe it. It's unlike anything. You really feel like you're dropping off the edge of the earth. I mean it's crazy."
Kansas City, KS, Mayor Mark Holland, who rode in the second raft of the morning, insisted his screams on the way down the slide were of joy, not fear.
"It's ridiculous," Holland said moments after his first run down the 17-story slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark. "You've got to think, why are you doing this? But then you cast common sense aside."
While members of his staff waited anxiously to whisk him off to another appointment, the mayor made his way up the 14 flights of stairs to the top of the slide to ride it again. Holland brought a teacher and a judge with him to take the plunge.
The opening was delayed six weeks but riders said it was worth the wait.
"It's the months of anticipation leading up to it," Holland said. "We've watched this come out of the ground. We've been so excited for the community and really for the thrill seekers around the globe who have been watching this."
The 168-foot-tall waterslide opens to the public Thursday, after initially being slated to open May 23. The ride was reconfigured after early tests included sandbag-filled rafts flying off the slide and crashing to the ground.
The changes cost $1 million and included slowing down the ride through the hills. The changes also included cutting back the number of riders in each raft from four to three. You must be 54 inches tall to ride and be at least 14 years old.
And if you don't want your weight known, then don't consider riding. There is a 550-pound weight limit per ride and the three riders are weighed.
Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry, who came up with the idea for the slide two years ago, said the early failures to keep rafts from being catapulted to the ground were just part of developing new technology.
"We wanted to know where the envelope was," said Henry, who was the first person to ride Verr├╝ckt. "We found those envelopes and pushed those levels."
While listening to the screams of riders coming down the slide Wednesday, Henry declared it to be "the baddest ride that's ever been built."
He said the ride is a "12" on a scale of 1 to 10.
Verr├╝ckt, which means "insane" in German, was certified as the world's tallest water slide in April by Guinness World Records.