Posted by: Tommy | August 26, 2011

Zorb!

Jerry started emailing Anna and I with ideas about Australia/New Zealand activities back in April.  He suggested 5 or 6 different things – bungy jumping, skiing, some weird snowshoeing race that was taking place in Queenstown, wineries and Zorbing.  The Zorb was the very first idea that I decided we had to do.  If you haven’t seen the Zorb, it’s a giant (11 ft. tall) plastic bubble with a smaller (still, 7 ft.) plastic bubble inside of it.  That second bubble has a person inside of it.  And it rolls down a big hill.

The Zorb ball, rolling down the hill in Rotorua

There are 2 main options for Zorbing.  The Zorbit option requires the rider to be strapped into waist, wrist and ankle straps, held against the side of the ball.  Then the ball is rolled down the hill, with the rider rolling along with it.  Shockingly, the staff said no one has ever thrown up during/after this ride.  The Zydro option involves putting some water inside the ball, keeping it bottom heavy and allowing you to slide around without being strapped in.

We had only 1 full day in Rotorua – we flew into Auckland on the 10th and out of Auckland on the 13th – so, with time short, Zorb was priority #1 on the 11th.  The weather was cold and rainy that morning – a disappointment – but Zorb advertises the fact that the Zydro ride is perfect for rainy days, as you are already going to get wet.  The even fill the ball with hot water when it’s cold out, making Zorbing an even better choice for this cold, wet, grey day.  In fact, the weather was so dreary they weren’t offering the Zorbit, fearing the unpredictable winds at the top of the hill.  We arrived at 10am and were the only Zorbonauts there.  The height of the grassy green hill was a bit intimidating, but it looked FUN!  The staff (not a highlight – all but one were surly) got us signed up, paid for ($79 NZ for 3 rides) and ready to go.  Sally, Anna and Jerry opted to not ride, but Jack and I were going for sure.  We changed into swimsuits (and socks – a requirement that makes you look ridiculous) and hopped in the Jeep for the ride to the top of the hill.

On top of the Zorb hill, ready to roll

There are 3 tracks to choose from, so we decided to ride all three, once each.  The Zydro ride can hold 1, 2 or 3 riders at one time, so Jack and I decided to try it together first on the Speed track.  That track runs straight down the hill, lasting about 20 seconds.  The employee loading us didn’t give us much warning.  He pumped some water in the ball, had me Superman-dive in first, followed immediately by Jack.  At this point, we’ve been on top of the large hill for about 30 seconds, we’re encased in two layers of plastic ball and we’re sitting in a puddle of warm water.  What a strange activity.  As soon as Jack’s feet passed the door of the ball, we were zipped in and he gave us a mighty shove.  And we started zipping down the hill.

I was expecting a jolting, bouncing, terrifying thrill ride that left me with a rush of adrenaline at the bottom – as I expect from most adventure sports.  The Zorb defied my expectations completely.  FUN! in capitals with an exclamation point is really the only way to describe the ride.  It was short, but it was fantastic.  It wasn’t particularly thrilling – at no time did I feel any sense of danger or even fear.  You don’t really bounce around and there’s not much jolting – just an unpredictable sliding and a silly, giddy sensation.  Anna explained the “silly” feeling as a complete abandonment to the present moment because you can’t see what’s coming next and you have no control over the ball (can’t stop, turn, go faster or slower), so you just focus on the fun sensation of sliding around in a ball. It’s such a silly activity, and that level of focus on your own silliness makes you giggle.

Arriving at the bottom, another staff member manhandled us into the unloading position and unzipped the door, so another guy could stick a camera in our faces and snap a few photos.  More photos were taken as we dismounted, feet first, into the frigid air.  We reported success to our assembled support team – Jerry working the video camera, Anna and Sally each with a small point-and-shoot – for still more photos.  Then we rushed back to the Jeep to go back up the hill and try The Drop.

Exiting the Zorb.

The Drop is a course that makes one sharp turn coming out of the gate, then drops nearly-vertical down the rest of the hill.  It was definitely the fastest ride once you passed the turn.  Jack and I went separately this time, with Jack going first (because he was cold and the water was warm).  This ride was even more fun – when you ride alone, there’s a lot more room for slipping, sliding and general chaos.  When I reached the bottom, I found Jack waiting for me with a giant grin.  He proclaimed the Drop as his favorite track.

The last track was the Maze, easily my favorite.  The Maze featured four hairpin turns that kept the ball bouncing (slightly – bouncing too much is not good) and kept you, as the rider, sliding all over the ball.  After the turns, the ride still ends with a straight-down run to the bottom.  The Maze sealed my enthusiasm for Zorbing – it was probably the most fun thing I’ve done on the trip (not the best, or my favorite, but the most fun).

Afterward, we dried off, changed clothes and were shepherded inside to view our photos (they did the “shove a camera in your face and take pictures of you grinning sillily” thing after every ride).  Of course, they try to sell you the photos, but they also let you use their computers and upload one random photo from your set to Facebook (genius marketing idea!).  Sadly, my email address is too long and hard to type, so my session timed out before I could finish.

For the rest of the day, Jack and I talked about how much fun we had on the Zorb.  We talked about it so much that Sally and Anna decided that they had to try it as well.  So we were back, just before closing time, ready to indoctrinate two new Zorb fans.  There’s a serious discount offered for any ride after your first 3 in a day, so I decided to ride with (well, not with – we all went solo, but at the same time as).  Jack didn’t want to get cold and wet again, so he opted to play photographer.

We all opted for the Maze track (it was the best) and changed quickly before heading up the hill in the Jeep.  I went first – Anna and Sally were a bit nervous watching from the top of the hill.  Sally went next – I couldn’t see her get in, but I watched her ride down and I watched her face when they opened the ball.  I was nervous that the ride would be too bumpy for her – but the HUGE smile on her face when she got out showed her feelings before she said anything.  She agreed – FUN!  Anna was shortly behind and she emerged, giggling, 2 minutes after Sally.  It was official – Zorb was 4 for 4 in thrilling our group.  We never did convince Jerry to climb into the giant plastic ball and tumble down a hill, but he did promise that when Anna and I open our own Zorb ride (New Braunfels, maybe?) he’d be one of the first down the hill.

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Responses

  1. I zorebed in Manali (as far as I know one of two places in the world to do it). Though I enjoyed my zorb, your experience sounds even better. I guess I will have to do it again when I get to NZ


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