Zorbing: What Is It and How Is It Played?

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There are many popular sports around the world, such as basketball, baseball, boxing, and more. However, there are also those that are quite strange and new to our vocabulary. One of those is zorbing. The sport is also called globe-riding, orbing, or sphereing. It is a kind of recreation or sport of rolling downhill while inside an orb that is usually made of transparent plastic. It is an extremely adventurous sport that is practiced on either a slope or a leveled surface. 

Zorbing is a popular sport in theme parks, where it is mostly carried out on a water surface. That is also known as Water Zorbing, which is another variant of the sport. If you are curious about what this sport is and how it is played, read on as we’ll give you more information about it. 

History of Zorbing

The history of zorbing can be traced back to the 1970s, when hamster balls were invented. Those balls were originally created for small rodent pets. The very first instance of zorbing ball was recorded in the 1980s when the Dangerous Sports Club made a hollow sphere of 23 meters with a space of putting two chairs inside of it. 

Since 1990, large spheres for humans have been exhibited in mass media, particularly when the Gladiators event called “Atlaspheres” was first aired. The actual sport was developed around the mid-1990s. Its idea was presented by David Akers and Andrew Akers in New Zealand. From then on, the sport was received positively and has become popular. 

In the 1991 film Armour of God II: Operation Condor, Jackie Chan had a stunt scene that used a flexible plastic orb that looks similar to a zorb ball. After that, zorbing became the most demanding sport in the world of adventures. In 1994, Zorb Limited was founded to commercialize zorb spheres in New Zealand. They aim to popularize the game by selling activity balls. 

In the present time, zorbing is popularly performed in different countries. Hill riding events are very popular in New Zealand, Canada, Phuket, United Kingdom, and more. However, in recent years, there were also a lot of injuries that questioned the existence of the game. With this, the Russian authorities introduced safety laws for the sport in 2013.

Orb Construction

people water zorbing

The orb or ball used in zorbing has two sections. There is one ball inside the other with an air layer in between. It acts as a shock absorber for the player. Orbs are made of flexible and lightweight plastic. The majority of them have straps where players can hold onto to stay in place. But there are also some orbs that do not have these, leaving the players free to walk the orb around or be tossed about freely when it rolls. 

Typically, orbs used for zorbing are about 3 meters or 10 feet in diameter, with an inner orb size of around 2 meters or 6ft and 7 inches. There are 50 to 60 centimeters or 20 to 24 inches of space for the air cushion around the riders. The plastic used is about 0.8 millimeters or 0.03 inches thick. The outer orbs and the inner orbs are connected by small nylon strings. They also feature one or two entrances that look like a tunnel. 

Inflating the Giant Ball

It’s simple to set up a Zorb ball. All you need to do is use an air compressor or pump to fill the ball with air through its valve. Depending on the size of the ball, inflation takes a few minutes. Some take between two and three minutes. The task can be completed more quickly with an electric pump than with a manual one.

As there is a finite amount of oxygen inside the ball, the passenger can only stay inside it for a maximum of 10-15 minutes. Nevertheless, depending on the size of the ball and the oxygen supply, there are some that can last up to 30 minutes.

Types of Zorbing

Kids rolling inside a zorb ball

Ground Zorbing

Ground zorbing is one of the zorbing subtypes. As the name implies, the player will spin around the ground, whether it is sand, level ground, or even downhill. Another name for it is dry zorbing. The two varieties include harness zorbing, in which the two passengers are fastened within the sphere facing one another. The other is stock zorbing, when the passenger rolls freely inside the enormous sphere without a harness.

Hydro Zorbing

Along with the passenger, the enormous ball used in hydro zorbing also contains water, which heightens the thrill and enjoyment of the activity. The participant in hydro zorbing may be positioned inside the sphere or may not be wearing a harness, depending on the type of sphere used.

blurry image of a human inside a rolling zorb ball

Free Zorbing

As the name implies, the sphere’s motion and speed are under the passenger’s direct control when free zorbing. The decision to descend or ascent on the ground rests on the passenger. The inside lacks a harness as well. The passenger can therefore freely move about inside the sphere by running or walking.

Bubble Ride

The bubble ride is zorbing over water. There isn’t any water inside the sphere, in contrast to hydro zorbing. Theme parks, amusement parks, and resorts frequently feature this activity. Also, it’s frequently the kid-friendly zorb activity of choice.

Aerosorbing

In contrast to other forms of zorbing, the passenger’s ball floats during aerosorbing. The absence of gravity causes it to float, giving the impression that the passenger is floating in space like an astronaut. Want to give it a shot?

Snow Zorbing

No matter the season, zorbing is feasible! The answer is yes, even in the winter. The reason that snow zorbing is distinct from other zorbing activities is that this ball is designed specifically for snow and can survive the coldest temperatures like -25 degrees. Snow zorbing, however, is played lightly and only on level and smooth terrain, in contrast to other strenuous zorbing sports.

What are the General Rules in Zorbing?

a zorbing event with inflatable course

Zorbing, unlike other sports, does not have any competition involved. Therefore, it does not have complicated rules. Most of its rules are just for safety purposes. Here are some of them:

  • The players are not allowed to bump into other players while tilting their orb forward. 
  • Players are not allowed to wear clothes with zippers. Their pockets should also be empty before playing.
  • Any kind of jewelry is not allowed during an event.
  • The zorb plastic should be around 0.8 mm or 0.03 inches thick. 
  • The orbs need to be connected with many small nylon strings along with one or two entrances. 

Fun Facts About Zorbing

Here are some fun trivia about zorbing:

  • Zorbing is a very popular sport in the coastal areas of India. It is played on both water surface and plane surface.
  • The zorb balls are chosen as a symbol in the Sochi Winter Olympics that was held in Russia in 2014.
  • A zorb ball is filled with a supply of oxygen inside the core. It is ideal for players who do not have issues with carbon dioxide inhalation.
  • Even though a zorb ball looks similar to a hamster ball, they differ in physics. A zorb rolls down a slope due to gravity, which is different from a hamster ball.
  • On September 8, 2019, James Duggan did the fastest 100 meters zorbing in just 23.21 seconds. He held the fastest 100 meters in the Maguire Harvest Festival that was held in Ireland. 
  • Rebecca Mazonson held the world record of the fastest zorbing ride, riding the zorb with a speed of 32 mph. However, her record was broken by Keith Kolver, who rode a zorb with a speed of 32 mph. 
  • Rebecca Mazonson has the record for the longest time spent inside a zorb ball, which was done during a zorbing event. She stayed inside the zorb for three hours, forty-nine minutes, and six seconds. 

Zorb ball rolling down the hill

Who Are Barred From Playing Zorb?

Extreme sports like zorbing can help someone gain discipline, decision-making skills, agility, strength, and confidence. Yet, because the person’s physical attributes can be utilized to the utmost extent, extra safety measures should be implemented. It’s possible that some people won’t be able to take part in this game.

  • The sport of zorb ball is not for everyone, despite the fact that it is exciting, fun, and can be played year-round. Don’t try if you are obese or believe you are one. What if you can’t bear your own weight inside the sphere in which you are rolling?
  • An excessive amount of adrenaline can make you tense, change your heart rate, and even harm your heart. Hence, those with pre-existing heart issues, nervousness, high blood pressure, palpitations, and other conditions related to cardio vascular concerns are prohibited from participating in this adventure activity.[1] 
  • It is not permitted to engage in this hazardous sport if you have lung issues. Zorbing is not recommended for anyone with asthma or other breathing issues because of the severely restricted oxygen supply inside the sphere and the strenuous nature of the activity. Passing out has been documented in several circumstances. [2]
  • Those who have skeletal issues are also not allowed to participate in zorbing activities because it could seriously aggravate their pre-existing illnesses. Anyone with joint pain, osteoporosis, scoliosis, fracture, sprains, or strains should not participate.
  • Because zorbing involves bouncing, descending downhill, bumping against other spheres, etc., pregnant women are not allowed to participate in these activities for obvious reasons.
  • Because they are not yet capable to control the sphere, children under the age of five are not permitted to participate in zorbing for their safety. Nonetheless, several kids as young as 5 years old have engaged in zorbing and rode on the zorb ball that is appropriate for their age.
  • Anyone who is claustrophobic is not allowed to go zorbing because of the close quarters of the zorb ball. They may cause mishaps and make you feel very scared, uneasy, dizzy, tight in the chest, and short of breath.
  • Zorbing cannot be played by anyone with physical disabilities. Considering that they have restricted movement and need specific care.
  • Since zorbing requires alertness, anyone under medication using antihistamines which cause drowsiness or sleepiness are barred from playing zorbing.[3]
  • Although the age restriction is not too tight, it is still best to exercise caution. If you participate in extreme sports, you need to be in good physical and mental health. Several theme parks demand a health certificate from seniors who wish to participate.
  • Drunk are not permitted to participate in zorbing. While zorbing under the influence, one could experience nausea, vertigo, and other discomforts, which is obviously not fun.
  • It cannot be assured that your zorbing game will be smooth for people who are worried about or afraid of crazy speed. The organizers cannot ensure that the ball won’t spin quickly or slowly, despite having calculated the speed and distance of the moving object.

Conclusion

Zorbing is indeed an interesting and fun sport to try. It is a perfect sport for those who are searching for something new. For some people, zorbing is a very adventurous sport. But there are also some who view it as a recreational activity for fun. How about you, would you try zorbing when given a chance?

If you dare, make sure to follow the tips we’ve given you so you can be sure you’ll be safe and have fun.

We hope the information we shared here helped you learn more about zorbing. For more unique sports, you can check out our list of Unusual Sports You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.

 

 

Reference

[1]  Broken Heart Syndrome. Ilan Shor Wittstein, M.D. Hopkinsmedicine.org Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/broken-heart-syndrome#:~:text=The%20heart%20muscle%20can%20be,blood%20flow%20to%20the%20heart. [Accessed on: March 7, 2023]

[2] Asthma and Exercise. Betterhealth.vic.gov.au Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/asthma-and-exercise [Accessed on: March 7, 2023]

[3] Antihistamines. Nhs.uk Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/#:~:text=Like%20all%20medicines%2C%20antihistamines%20can,dry%20mouth [Accessed on: March 7, 2023]

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