Tuesday, November 27, 2007


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Zorbing in Rotorua
Globe Trekker's Ian Wright zorbing in New Zealand.Zorbing is a recreational activity developed in the 1990s that consists of rolling downhill inside of a usually transparent, double-hulled sphere called a zorb, made from PVC.

Zorbing originated in New Zealand as the brainchild of Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers. In 1994 they conceived the idea of the spheres in Auckland, New Zealand, and invented the term zorb.

The inside of the original zorb has 9 straps to keep the rider in place. Variations include strapless hydro zorbs where water is added for an experience somewhat like a water chute. The latter variation can be ridden with two or three other zorbonauts.

Zorbing has spread to England, the mountains of Norway, the middle of Sweden, the Gold Coast in Australia, the alpine hills of Switzerland, and to China, Argentina, and Japan. It also recently appeared in India.

At least two USA locations have zorbing: SphereMania, which operates in Michigan, and Smoky Mountains[1] in Tennessee

Zorbing has been shown in episodes of Wildboyz, Celebrity Fit Club, Road Rules, The Amazing Race, Globe Trekker, and I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! as well as the Jackie Chan film Armour of God II: Operation Condor. It has even been presented in animation for the telefilm Race Across Canada. One of the contestants on an episode of Jeopardy! mentioned Zorbing as a pastime.

1 Company History
2 See also
3 References
4 External links

[edit] Company History
Zorb Limited is the New Zealand based company set up by the 2 inventors and 2 seed capitalists to develop Zorbing worldwide via a franchise system.

In 2000 Dwane van der Sluis exited from the company to return to his career as a software engineer.

Andrew Akers continued to run the company as CEO until April 2006, when he resigned due to disagreements with the Board of Directors (principally with the self-appointed Chairman Craig Horrocks, one of the initial seed capital investors). Craig Horrocks was a commercial lawyer and ex-director of Feltex Carpets, a well-known New Zealand brand that quickly failed and went into liquidation after a 2004 IPO, resulting in investigations into the Board of Directors' conduct. [2] [3]

The entire senior management team (including Andrew's brother David; a key employee responsible for Research and Development, site design, training and safety) and head office staff members also left Zorb Limited within the next few months, citing an abusive, overly-corporate gestapo-like regime spearheaded by Horrocks, as their reasons for leaving. By early 2007, many of the original franchisees had also left the zorb system, some going on to develop their own zorb products and operations. [4]

[edit] See also
Pigeon Forge, TN � November 2007 � I'll never be a NASA astronaut, but, by golly, I'm an official Zorbonaut! And I have the certificate and wet swimming suit to prove it!
Don't know what a Zorbonaut is? I didn't either until a bunch of weird New Zealanders (that may be a redundancy) began building Zorb Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It's the first Zorb location in North America.
The Kiwis call the Zorb experience a sport, which is okay, if you remember that New Zealand is the nation that thrust bungee jumping on an unsuspecting public. As Zorb's owners say, "New Zealand once again leads the world in stupid things to do while on vacation."

(Full disclosure: I do some work for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, but that's beside the point. Zorb is so cool, I'd brag about being a Zorbonaut regardless of its location.)

To use some highly technical New Zealand terminology, a Zorb is a giant beachball with a smaller beachball inside it. By giant, I mean 11 feet in diameter for the bigger ball and six feet in diameter for the interior ball.

Through the miracles of modern technology and a whole lot of craftsmanship, the interior ball is perfectly suspended inside the bigger ball, sort of like the chocolate center in a Tootsie Roll Pop.

(More disclosure: I don't do any work for Tootsie Roll Pops, but I do like them. Especially the grape ones.)

Since the outer ball of a Zorb is inflated like the aforementioned beachball and the inner ball is big enough to hold a human, that means a human can get inside and roll down the side of a mountain. Neat, huh?

My Zorb mission was a Zydro assignment. Even though it was cloudy and about 48 degrees, I donned my official Zorbonaut suit (sort of a cross between a swimming suit and a professional boxer's trunks topped with a soccer-style shirt).

Mission Control's instructions were clear: "Give us your best Superman impersonation."

Explanation: I took a flying leap through a tunnel that connects the inner ball to the outside world and splashed headfirst into about five gallons of warm water. It was a strangely womb-like experience.

Blastoff came after a Zorb wrangler zipped the tunnel shut and opened a gate, sending me careening down a serpentine 1,000-foot-long channel carved into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. If I wanted to extend the womb analogy, I'd have to believe Mom was an Olympic gymnast.

When the Zorb rolled up one side of the channel, my momentum slid me up and around, the water cascaded over me and I lost all orientation―other than to know that "up" and "down" mean absolutely nothing. If I'm ever in a front-loading washing machine, I'll know what to expect.

Bounce, slosh, spin! Repeat, repeat, repeat. It's a long way down the mountain, and people at the landing pad heard me whooping and hollering most of the way.

At the end, another wrangler positioned the Zorb so the tunnel was angled down and out. You can come up with your own analogy for what it's like to be extruded fanny-first back into the atmosphere. "Born again" takes on new meaning, and it's funny for Zorbonaut and spectator alike.

Soaking wet from the Zorb's heated water and steaming in the cool air, I saluted Mission Control and began preparation for my next trip into inner space. This one will be a dry experience strapped in a harness inside a different Zorb so I can roll and bounce head over heels down the mountain.

I know I have the right stuff. To heck with NASA.--Tom Adkinson


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