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Zorb in Rotorua
|Highest governing body||ZORB Limited|
|First played||1994, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand|
|Type||Indoor or Outdoor and extreme|
Zorbing (globe-riding, sphereing, orbing) is the recreation or sport of rolling downhill inside an orb, generally made of transparent plastic. Zorbing is generally performed on a gentle slope, but can also be done on a level surface in pubs and clubs around the UK, permitting more rider control. In the absence of hills some operators have constructed inflatable, wooden or metal ramps. There are two types of orbs, harnessed and non-harnessed. Non-harness orbs carry up to three riders, while the harness orbs are constructed for one to two riders. Double-harness spheres have different slope requirements, and must only be operated in specific locations. The longer runs are approximately half a mile. The first zorbing site was established in Rotorua, New Zealand, by David and Andrew Akers.
Hamster balls, hard plastic single layer spheres made for small rodent pets, have been manufactured and sold since at least the 1970s. A Russian article on the Zorb mentions a similar device having debuted in 1973. In the early 1980s, the Dangerous Sports Club constructed a giant sphere (reportedly 23 metres or 75 feet across) with a gimbal arrangement supporting two deck chairs inside. This device was eventually cut up for scrap, with some of the plastic remnants used to cover a compost heap. Human spheres have been depicted in mass media since 1990 when the Gladiators event Atlaspheres first aired, albeit with steel balls.
In 1994, Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers conceived the idea for a type of sphere in Auckland, New Zealand, calling their invention the "Zorb". With two other investors they created the firm ZORB Limited, and set to work commercializing sphereing. Their business model was to develop the activity world-wide via a franchise system. In 2000, van der Sluis exited from the company to return to his career as a software engineer; Akers continued to run the company as CEO until April 2006, when he resigned. Around this time, ZORB's European master franchise operator, Michael Stemp, and Hungarian master franchise operator, Attila Csató, ended their affiliation with ZORB and started a manufacturing and sphereing consultancy firm, Downhill Revolution  and created the human cocktail maker called Spinfizz. Andrew Akers and his brother David Akers have since teamed up with Chris Roberts to create the OGO (Outdoor Gravity Orb) and The Fishpipe.
Sphereing is also referred to as Orbing or Zorbing, and Zorbing entered the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2001 where 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".
The zorb is double-sectioned, with one ball inside the other with an air layer between. This acts as a shock absorber for the rider, damping bumps while traveling. Orbs are lightweight and made of flexible plastic, as opposed to the rigid plastic, for example, of a hamster ball. Many orbs have straps to hold the rider in place, while others leave the rider free to walk the orb around or be tossed about freely by the rolling motion. A typical orb is about 3 metres (10 ft) in diameter, with an inner orb size of about 2 metres (6 ft 7 in), leaving a 50–60 centimetre (20–24 in) air cushion around the riders. The plastic is approximately 0.8 millimetres (0.03 in) thick. The inner and outer orb are connected by numerous (often hundreds of) small nylon strings. Orbs have one or two tunnel-like entrances.
Zorbing is performed at commercial locations, where prospective riders pay a fee for each ride or for a whole day's activity. 'Hill-Rolling' (the generic name for this activity) is practiced in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, the middle of Sweden, Estonia, the Gold Coast in Australia (currently not available), North Pole, Canada, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Japan, Kochi in India, Phuket in Thailand and Slovenia. In the United States, there are facilities in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (near Great Smoky Mountains National Park), Amesbury, Massachusetts, and Roundtop Mountain Resort, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania (near Hershey). Several franchise-based companies (SphereMania, Orb 360) as well as OGO Inc, Downhill Revolution which do not sell franchises but do offer consultancy services and products to suitable operators) have entered the market.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognises two sphereing records, set over two consecutive days in 2006:
- Longest sphereing ride held by Steve Camp who travelled 570 metres (1,870 ft).
- Fastest sphereing ride held by Keith Kolver who reached a speed of 52 kilometres per hour (32 mph).
- 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.
In June 2009 a teacher died and a pupil was seriously injured in the Czech Republic while trying zorbing.
In January 2013, a man died from a broken neck and another was seriously injured when a Zorb rolled out of control down a mountain, hitting rocks and eventually coming to a stop a kilometre away on a frozen lake in Dombay, Karachay-Cherkess Republic. The incident was caught on camera and uploaded to the Internet. After the incident made international headlines, Russian authorities called for tougher safety laws.
Zorbing in popular culture
- In chapter 6 of his 1930 novel, Hoity-Toity, the Russian science fiction writer Alexander Belyayev described a transparent ball encasing the scientist who was thus able to walk in the jungle protected. In the novel the ball was made of caoutchouc.
- A sphere can be seen in Regis Rollands 1986 film Apocalypse Snow.
- Jackie Chan is seen zorbing down a cliff in the opening scenes of Armour of God II
- Zorbing was shown as part of a Roadblock on Season Five of the American television show The Amazing Race.
- In the second series of Fresh Meat Josie planned to go Zorbing.
- Zorbing appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on Wednesday 14 July 2010. David Letterman tried it out in the studio before his guest Joseph Gordon-Levitt rode on 53rd Street outside the CBS studios in New York.
- Diplo, frontman of the group Major Lazer, has zorbed on crowds as an alternative to crowd surfing at Major Lazer concerts and at Mad Decent Block Parties, the festivals staged by his record label.
- In Slender: The Arrival, on a hidden scrapbook item, a brochure titled "Welcome to Oakside Park", Zorbing appears on the list of activities, with an asterisk showing a note at the bottom of the brochure, which says "Formal attire discouraged, but not expressely prohibited, including dark suits."
- A Zorb features in the music video for "Halfway Gone" by Lifehouse.
- An episode of Community featured Troy and Abed using "The Orb" in a school-wide game of The Floor is Lava.
- "History of Zorbing". Outdoor Gravity NZ Ltd. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
- Ebersolt, Gilles (April 2008). "A History of the Ballule" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2009.
- БАЗЫЛЮК, Марина (March 1, 2005). Новые Известия / Кого не берут в космонавты, тот становится зорбонавтом. (in Russian). Retrieved August 18, 2009.
- "What on earth is a zorb?". ExtremeDreams. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
- "Downhill Revolution website".
- "SpinFizz website".
- "Teacher killed in zorbing accident". News.com.au. June 5, 2009.
- "'Zorbing' Death Brings Call For Safety Rules; Fatal Ride Captured On Video". NPR. January 9, 2013.
- "Fatal Zorb accident at ski resort". 3 News NZ. January 9, 2013.
- "Man in Plastic Ball Dies on Russian Ski Slope". New York Times. January 11, 2013.
- "VIDEO: Zorb death at Russian ski resort". 3 News NZ. January 9, 2013.
- "Russia probes Zorb death". 3 News NZ. January 10, 2012.
- "video of David Letterman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing with the OGO".