Meet the ‘Queen Spinner of Shell Shock,’ a local celebrity at MOA

Woman stands in front of amusement ride
Tara Maldonado stands in front of the entrance of the Shell Shock ride at the Mall of America on June 5.
Anne Guttridge | MPR News

In her nearly 1 million spins, Tara Maldonado has kept her cool riding the Mall of America’s Shell Shock ride over the past 12 years.

“I don’t get sick or nothing like that. I’m used to it,” said Maldonado.

The Ninja Turtles-themed flying ride has 12 seats shaped like turtle shells with wings and is designed to allow riders to spin as much as they can. The ride propels 12 riders in the air and spins in a wide circle. The wing flaps on the sides of the seats can be used to help rotate riders into a spin.

But few are actually able to do a full spin in their seat, much less achieve Maldonado’s 60-plus spins in under two minutes.

“I just love to show everyone how it’s done,” said Maldonado.

Her spinning has made her a local celebrity at the mall’s Nickelodeon Universe. Maldonado’s incredible spinning technique has gone viral on TikTok since 2021, when she started posting about her spinning. Ever since, she’s been a sensation that people love watching (and posting about on TikTok), if they’re lucky enough to find her at the mall.

Woman flips on amusement ride
The "Queen Spinner of Shell Shock" shows off her infamous spinning, flipping in her favorite seat on the Shell Shock ride at the Mall of America on June 5.
Anne Guttridge | MPR News

To do a full spin, Maldonado advises rocking side to side with your body and using the wing flaps to help rotate the seat.

The “Queen Spinner of Shell Shock” can be spotted at the ride twice a week, averaging over 60 spins each ride and a total of 500 spins in one day. A counter at the back of the seats helps Maldonado keep track of her spin numbers, but she always makes sure to count her spins in her head and write them down on a notepad.

“I have a lot of people around here that enjoy me spinning. Like I’ll see people from the first all the way to the third floor up here just watching. And then I have some that will cheer me on, too,” said Maldonado.

Her most recent TikTok in May following the #OfCourse trend, where she explains what it’s like to be the famous spinner at the Mall of America, got over 5 million views. Within a span of a month, the 33-year-old from Prior Lake went from 9,000 to over 22,000 followers on TikTok.

Woman sits on amusement ride
Tara Maldonado, 33, waits for the Shell Shock ride to start to show off her spinning technique on June 5 at the Mall of America.
Anne Guttridge | MPR News

She says she is almost always recognized every time she goes on the ride. Ever since her latest TikTok, more people have been coming up to her asking for photos and selfies. One person even asked for her autograph.

Being recognized is a “really special” feeling for her. Maldonado has taught a few of her friends how to spin, but it’s something that can take a while to learn to do. 

“It’s a real workout. I’m sweating when I get off this ride,” she said.

Maldonado’s technique comes down to a combination of humidity in the air and picking the best seats that can rotate the most (No. 2 and No. 11). 

“If you really want to spin, then I would suggest waiting for the ride to go around the second time. And then you start rocking to the side and, then as the ride gets faster, then you probably spin better,” she said.

For now, she enjoys her place upon her spinning throne, surveying her kingdom of fellow amusement park goers.