Experience being a hamster in this extreme sport
By Carlos Bilan, Staff Writer
Imagine yourself on top of a hill and in front of you is a smooth, steep slope. Would it not be a breeze to just slide down? Well, with your own body, it’s not physically possible of course—how did Jack and Jill do that anyway?—but when you’re inside a plastic ball, everything changes. It is now possible to experience the feeling of rolling down a hill, without getting your clothes dirty. This is all thanks to zorbing.
Zorbing sounds like a name for an activity for thrill-seekers, which is partially true. It is classified as an extreme sport. However, for the most part, it is incredibly safe, because of both the ball’s material and the fact that it is done in a controlled environment.
A zorb ball is made of thick, transparent yet durable plastic. This human hamster ball actually has two sections: one ball, which can accommodate one to three people, inside another bigger ball, and between them is a layer of air. (Sounds like ball-ception to me.) These two sections are linked by a complex network of rope or nylon wires. This structure ensures that the balls don’t turn together, and acts as a shock absorber during the ball’s trip. Typically, a zorb ball has one or two openings that acts as not only a way for passengers to enter and exit but also to be a source of oxygen for the riders. These openings usually measure around two feet wide in diameter.
There are two types of zorb balls, or, more specifically, two ways to experience it: dry or wet. The dry experience of zorbing involves a person being strapped into a zorbing ball with a harness. It feels safer and seems more like a comfortable experience as you still get to feel what it’s like to roll rapidly down the hill without the endless tumbling around.
The second type is called “hydrozorbing” which is what thrill-seekers like me would love to hear. It’s called the wet experience because about 10 gallons of water is poured inside the ball. The best part is, you are unharnessed! So, your body will definitely be rolling all over and get to experience the best of both worlds—sliding down a water slide and being on a rollercoaster.
Zorbing is guaranteed to be one hundred per cent safe. The only time fatal incidents have been reported is due to people zorbing in dangerous places, which is why zorbing must be done in a controlled environment. These places are recognized as zorbing sites. The zorbing track deemed the most excellent by critics is in Rotorua, New Zealand. The hill is very smooth, and a lovely green during warm season. There are no cliffs, and it is a safe and beautiful environment.
There are even Guinness World Records that exist related to zorbing. Coincidentally, they both happened in New Zealand. On November 7, 2006, Keith Kolver became the fastest “human hamster” as he rolled down the Rotorua hill at an incredible speed of 52 kilometres per hour. Another world record was broken that same day in Paengaroa, when Steve Camp rolled a distance of 1,870 feet in one single roll. The city of Hong Kong also set a world record when it had the most participants in a zorbing event; a total of 237 people consecutively ran 50 metres on a specially designed track.
The origin of this extreme sport is a bit of a toss-up. Official records state that zorbing originated in New Zealand in 1994. Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis created transparent inflatable spheres people can enter, and they called this the “zorb.” With the help of two other investors, the firm ZORB Limited was created.
However, there is a debate surrounding the invention of zorbing due to the existence of earlier prototypes. In the 1980s, a group of extreme sports enthusiasts called Dangerous Sports Club created a huge sphere with two suspended deck chairs inside. The first prototype actually dates to the late 1970s when the ball—called La Ballule (from the French word “la balle” meaning bubble)—was created by French architect and inventor Gilles Ebersolt.
Despite this, the zorb is considered a novelty invention and one can conclude that its origin is as wobbly as being in a zorb ball itself. One thing is for sure, though: These brilliant minds have found a way for humans to experience rolling down a hill without dying or hurting themselves in the process.