Some people may already know about zorbing. Others might not. But by the end of this page i guarantee that we will all agree on one thing. It’s awesome! I will start by explaining what it is. Then I’ll tell you about its weird origin. And last but not least, I will reveal to you why zorbing is seriously fun!
What is Zorbing?
Pretty much rolling down a hill inside a special transparent orb, that is generally made out of plastic. These giant inflatable balls are called Zorbs and are of different types. Some have harnesses and straps to hold the rider in position. Others allow the rider to walk freely inside, or to be tossed around by the ball motion. Sometimes people would pour water inside, and the rider just slides around freely while the inflatable ball rolls downhill. This is called hydrozorbing (check the picture below). All orbs can be used to float on water, but some are specifically designed for that and are called Water Balls (these). And last but not least, there is the less known little sister of the Zorb, the Bubble Ball. Don’t let their smaller size fool you, because what you can actually do inside a bubble ball will surprise you! You can see for yourself here. The bubble balls are meant for many different activities and sports (such as zorb Football) or simply free-running.
In most cases Zorbing is done on a gentle slope for maximum fun. However, it can also be performed on a level area, allowing for more orb control by the rider. Sometimes, if there are no slopes around, different wooden, metal or inflatable ramps are used. You can also do it on water. This is called Water Walking or Aquazorbing. Many theme parks across the US, UK, Europe, Japan and New Zeeland (where the trend originated) feature this type of entertainment. In addition to this, there are other sub-branches such as Bubble Football/Soccer, Body Zorbing and Snow Bowling. All of these are presented in detail in the other sections of the site.
A Brief History
Who came up with this crazy idea? Well, in the 1970s the first hamster balls ever were manufactured and sold. These were small plastic-made spheres designed for pet hamsters to fit in and roll around. In the early 1980s, a group of extreme sports pioneers called the Dangerous Sports Club, took the idea of the hamster ball a giant step further. They constructed a giant sphere 23 meters (75 feet) in diameter that supported two deck chairs inside. Two people would fit in and the ball would be rolled around. However, the device did not gain popularity and was eventually abandoned. Most of the materials used in the creation of the giant ball were scrapped. The plastic wrap was even used to cover a compost heap. Shame.
Thankfully, in 1994, two men from New Zeeland (Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis) revitalized the concept. They came up with the idea of building transparent plastic, inflatable spheres that people could fit in. They used a franchise system to commercialize their invention and the trend caught on fast. The media presented the whole concept as a novelty, and the it caught on fast. However, proper credit has to be given to the initial creator of these giant plastic balls, a french guy called Gilles Ebersolt. He patented his invention way earlier than them, back in the 1970s. You can read the full controversial story here.
The activity is also referred to as Orbing or Sphereing. The word Zorbing now officially exists in the English language after it entered the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2001, and in some cases people even consider it an extreme sport.
The sport has gained a lot of popularity in the media lately, and a lot of celebrities have tried it out. Jason Statham, Jimmy Fallon, Collin Farell, Chris Prat have all had a go. The sport even gained the attention of giant car manufacturer companies. Nissan went full nuts when they set a real life car inside one of these giant inflatable balls and rolled it down a hill as a publicity stunt. You can check it out here.