Zorbing is the practice of humans traveling in a
sphere, generally made of transparent plastic, usually for fun. Sphereing or globe-riding is generally performed on a gentle slope, allowing the rider to roll downhill, but can also be done on a level surface, as well as on water, permitting more rider control. In the absence of hills, at least one vendor has begun constructing metal ramps. [ [http://www.downhillrevolution.com/Who-we-are Who | Downhill Revolution Llc | Shu [Cms ] ] Most spheres are constructed for a single rider, but some hold two or three. The longer runs are approximately half a mile. Globe-riding is very popular in New Zealand and the very first Zorb site was Zorb Rotorua.
The sphere is a double-hulled sphere, with one ball inside the other with an air layer in between. This acts as a
shock absorberfor the rider, dampening bumps while traveling. It also allows for a much more light-weight sphere made of flexible plastic, as opposed to the rigid plastic of a hamster ball. Many spheres have straps to hold the rider in place, while others leave the rider free to walk the sphere around or be tossed about freely by the rolling motion. A typical sphere is about convert|3|m in diameter, with an inner sphere size of about convert|2|m, leaving a 50–60 centimetre (20–24 in) air cushion around the riders. The plastic is approximately convert|0.8|mm thick. The inner and outer sphere are connected by numerous (often hundreds) small ropes. Spheres generally have one or two tunnel-like entrances.
Sphereing is generally performed at commercial sphereing facilities, where prospective riders pay a fee for each ride or for a whole day's activity. In many cases, corporations lease facilities for events. While the Zorb Limited
business modelinvolves leasing spheres to franchisees and not selling them to private individuals, several companies now offer sphereing balls for sale. The quality of some of these has been called into question. [ [http://www.eagletribune.com/punews/local_story_173001820.html After injury in Maine, Sports Park stresses safety of its spheres - EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA ] ] Sphereing is currently (2008) practiced in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, the middle of Sweden, Estonia, the Gold Coast in Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan, Thailand and Slovenia.Fact|date=March 2008 In the United States, there is a facility stationed in Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, and a facility in Amesbury, Massachusettshas recently opened. Several franchise-based companies (Spheremania, Orb 360) have entered the market and begun to compete with Zorb Limited.
Hamster balls, hard plastic single layer spheres made for the use of hamsters and other 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. [* [http://www.newizv.ru/news/?id_news=23482&inset=extrim&date=2005-05-01 Whom do not take in cosmonauts] - Russian article on Zorbing, mentioning a similar activity taking place in 1973.] In the early 1980s, the Dangerous Sports Clubconstructed a giant sphere (reportedly convert|23|m|disp=s across) with a gimbalarrangement 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. [ [http://www.extremedreams.co.uk/index.php/Extremedreams/zorb/xsid/59 zorb, zorbs, zorbing, inflatable ball, bubble Extremedreams.co.uk ] ] Human spheres have been depicted in mass media since 1990 when the Gladiatorsevent Atlaspheresfirst aired albeit with steel balls. In 1994, Zorb Limited was founded in New Zealand, and widely popularized the activity.
The Zorb company
In 1994, Dwayne van der Sluis and Andrew Akers conceived the idea for a type of sphere in
Auckland, New Zealand, calling their invention the "Zorb", and patenting and trademarking the term. With Craig Horrocks and one other investor, 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 due to problems with Horrocks (ex director of failed carpets company Feltexand part of the group of directors being sued by Feltex shareholders for the 2004 prospectus which is alleged to be "misleading and deceptive, [and] contained untrue and negligent statements." [ [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/3/story.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10496593 Battle lines drawn in $254 million Feltex fight - 07 Mar 2008 - NZ Herald: New Zealand Business, Markets, Currency and Personal Finance News ] ] ) Around this time, Zorb Limited's European master franchise operator, Michael Stemp, and Hungarian master franchise operator, Attila Csató, ended their affiliation with Zorb Limited and started a manufacturing firm, Downhill Revolution.
Many of the franchisees, employees and shareholders who left Zorb Ltd stated Craig Horrocks' method of dealing with people as their reason. This method may be summed up by the term coined by
Neal Stephenson; 'Bullshytt' defined as a "... technical and clinical term denoting speech (typically but not necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges to create the impression that something has been said. [...] It is inherent in the mentality of ... bulshytt-talkers that they are more prone than anyone else to taking offense (or pretending to) when their bullshytt is pointed out to them."
The inside of the original Zorb product has nine straps to keep the rider in place. New versions use a 5 point safety harness for Hypersphering activities. Variations include strapless Zydro Zorbs, or Hydrosphering, where water is added for an experience somewhat like a water chute. The latter variation can be ridden with two or three riders. Zorb Limited strictly prohibits the use of the Zorb Ball to walk on water however they produce other products which can be used for this purpose.
On June 19, 2008 reporter Rebekah Metzler of the Lewiston Sun-Journal, fractured her back and bruised a kidney while rolling down a ski hill in a copy product at Lost Valley, Maine. [ [http://www.eagletribune.com/punews/local_story_173001820.html After injury in Maine, Sports Park stresses safety of its spheres - EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA ] ]
Due to the success of the Zorb company, Sphereing is often referred to as 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". While in a popular sense, Zorbing is a
genericized trademark, probably being used by more people than the term Sphereing, like Jell-Oand Band-aids, it is still a legally protected trademark owned by a corporation.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognises 2 sphereing records, set over two consecutive days in 2006:
*Longest sphereing ride held by Steve Camp who travelled convert|570|m|ft.cite news |url=http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200611/s1785174.htm |title=New Zealand zorbanauts tumble into history |author=
Agence France-Presse|publisher=ABC News Online |date= 2006-11-09|accessdate=2008-01-18]
*Fastest sphereing ride held by Keith Kolver who reached a speed of convert|52|km/h|mph.
In popular culture
*The 1967 British tv series
The Prisonerfeatures a large translucent white sphere, Rover, which chases down and stuns or kills escapees, presumably by suffocation. [Various posts noting similarity of Zorb to Rover http://www.citynoise.org/search/zorb http://worldwide-wandering.blogspot.com/ http://www.efanzines.com/SFSF/SFSF20.pdf http://www.emigratenz.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-4239.html ]
*In the 1980s, a
The Far Sidecartoon depicted a cow in a "cow ball", a scaled up hamster ball.Fact|date=March 2008
*The television series
Gladiatorsincludes an event called Atlasphereswhich follows a similar concept to zorbing in which participants are placed in large steel balls and must roll around on the arena floor to either score on pods or prevent scoring.
*At the beginning of the 1991 film "",
Jackie Chanrolls down a cliff in a sphere.
*On the Nickelodeon T.V. movie the characters had to zorb as part of a marathon race.
*In MTV's 1998 "", the cast went zorbing in New Zealand.
Peter Gabrielused a Zorb as part of his 2002-2004 "Growing Up" tour. The Zorb was lowered onto him from overhead scaffolding and he rolled around the stage in it, singing using a wireless headset microphone. Tour staff populated the pit at the edge of the stage in many venues as protection against rolling off the edge. [http://www.theblisspages.com/cms.php?id=177 Video of Zorb in Peter Gabriel's "Growing Up" tour] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/d4d/sets/1386191/ Photos of Zorb in Peter Gabriel's "Growing Up" tour]
*In the 2004
reality televisionshow " The Amazing Race", the racers' task for the roadblock in leg 10 involved a Zorb ride in Rotorua. [cite episode |title=The Amazing Race |episodelink=The Amazing Race 5 |series=The Amazing Race |network=CBS |season=5 |number=10 |transcripturl=http://www.cbs.com/primetime/amazing_race5/show/episode10/index3.shtml]
*An upcoming (planned UK release March 2007) video game called Spinout has players racing in translucent spheres called "Xorbs". [cite web |url=http://psp.ign.com/objects/761/761264.html |title=Spinout |publisher=
*Zorb Balls are featured in a 2008 commercial for the
Toyota Sequoia sport utility vehicle.
*Zorb balls are also in the 2008 Hutchinson 3 ad.
*Repeated mentions of human-sized hamster balls by the characters from the popular webcomic
*In the Discovery Channel series Smash Lab, the zorb is used as a concept for stopping a car from rolling down a hill.
* [http://www.zorbing.co.uk Zorbing London]
* [http://www.findsportsnow.com/learn/zorbing FindSportsNow - Zorbing Near You]
* [http://www.zorb.co.nz The original New Zealand Zorb location in Rotorua]
* [http://www.zorb.com Zorb Limited's website]
* [http://www.downrev.com DOWNHILL REVOLUTION]
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