What is Zorbing?

Zorbing is the latest craze in extreme sports/activities. Also known as globe-riding, sphereing or orbiting, it is the sport of rolling down a hill inside of an orb that is made of transparent plastic. Zorbing is usually performed on a gentle slope, but it can also be done on a level surface which provides the rider with more control of the orb.

Some zorbing facilities that are situated in an area that doesn’t have hills have created inflatable, wooden or metal ramps that allow you to take your love for zorbing to a new level. Because of the buoyant nature of the plastic orbs, you can also enjoy this activity in the water, provided that the orb is insulated well and sealed shut once the rider is inside. The activitiy known as Water Walking using orbs has become very popular at theme parts across the UK.

There are two types of orbs that you can ride in, harnessed and non-harnessed. The non-harnessed orbs can hold up to three people at a time while those that contain a harness are made for only one or two riders. The double harness orbs have different slope requirements and should only be used in specific locations. Most tracks used for zorbing are typically around half a mile long. The very first zorbing site was established in Rotorua, New Zealand.

How Zorbing Came to Be

Zorbing really isn’t anything new, especially if you are a hamster or guinea pig. They have been zorbing for decades in those tiny plastic balls that their owners place them in so that they can run wild throughout the house, outsmart the cat and get some exercise. One day in 1973, someone thought that it would be a great idea to create a human-sized hamster ball so that we could enjoy the thrill of running around inside a plastic ball. A similar device to the current Zorb was created at that time but unfortunately didn’t take off.

Then in the early 1980s, the Dangerous Sports Club created a giant sphere that was reportedly 75 feet across with two deck chairs situated inside. The device was later cut up for scrap with some of the plastic remains used to cover the pile of compost. Apparently, designing a human-sized hamster ball that actually works and is safe is more difficult than one may think. However that hasn’t stopped us from trying.

Human spheres were used in the American Gladiators TV show for their Atlaspheres competitions. And the 1991 film Armour of God II: Operation Condor features Jackie Chan rolling down a mountain inside a flexible plastic orb that is very similar to the Zorbs that we use today.

The Zorb was first created in 1994 when Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers came upwith the idea. They created the firm ZORB Limited and got to work on creating a human orb that would actually work. They hoped to create a business model so that they could develop the activity as a world wide franchise. In 2000, van der Sluis exited the company however Akers stayed on to become CEO until he later resigned in April of 2006. Other franchise operators from different countries went to create their own orbing devices and other similar products since then.

The term Zorbing entered into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2001 when it was defined as “a sport in which a participant is secured inside an inner capsule in a large transparent ball which is then rolled along the ground or down hills.”

Where Can I Zorb?

There are several Zorbing facilities located all throughout the world, usually near tourist attractions or inside of amusement parks. Riders can pay a fee for each ride or they can pay more for a full day of zorbing activities. In the United States, there are Zorbing centers in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is also the Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry Pennsylvania near the town of Hershey, and centers in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin and Amesbury, Massachusetts. Outside the U.S. you can find Zorbing activities in the UK, New Zealand, Sweden, The Gold Coast of Australia, Poland and Japan.

Zorbing Records

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, there have been two sphereing records set over two consecutive days in 2006.

  • The longest sphereing ride was held by Steve Camp who travelled 570 metres (1,870 feet).
  • The fastest sphereing ride was held by Keith Kolver who reached a speed of 52 kilometres per hour (32 mph).
  • The fastest 100m in a Zorb – 26.59 seconds. Held by Andrew Flintoff who broke the record as part of his attempt to break 12 world records in 12 hours for BBC Sport Relief.