Zorbing and Its Olympic Aspirations

The simple design of a large inflatable plastic ball has given the world an exciting new sport.  Zorbing is so versatile that it is safe enough for children’s parties, and risky enough to be called an extreme sport.  Now that Russia has chosen these zorbing balls as the official symbol of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 the public is even more intrigued by this unique sport.

Zorbing at the Russian Olympics

History of Zorbing

The original transparent, nine-foot, double-skinned, plastic ball was made in Auckland in 1994, just for family fun.  As Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis fine-tuned its sturdiness and maneuverability, the giant hamster ball full of adrenaline addicts inside began rolling its way down hills.

There are now many spin-offs and imitators.  Zorbing might be used generically, but there are other terms that are often included in the names of adventure companies.  Orbing, sphereing and globing are all used to describe this innovative sport.

Zorbing at the Russian Olympics

There are harnessed and non-harnessed orbs, as well as dry or ‘hydro’ zorbing runs.  On a harness ride, up to three people can be strapped into one ball, facing each other, tumbling down a hill at speeds of up to 35 kph, and in hydro zorbing runs, riders can sit loose inside the ball, with a splash of hot or cold water.  The applications of zorbing as a sport are developing all the time, and new takes on the now-established zorbing concept are being realized all over the world. Here are some examples of this growth.

Variations

Enthusiasts everywhere have developed variations on the original zorbing sport.  Some are daring, others are child’s play, and still others are performances.

  • Body zorbing – Players are inside the ball only from the waist up, leaving their legs free to play football, engage in sumo wrestling or even the traditional last man standing or king-of-the-hill.  This is a great feature for a child’s birthday party.
  • Water walking – Riders inside the transparent sphere appear to walk across the water.  They can even lie down and roll on the water.
  • Crowd surfing – A six-foot crowd ball with someone in it simply rolls over the top of a crowd.  These are sometimes called celebrity balls, as rock stars often use them at concerts to get close to fans without actually touching them.
  • Performing – Dance balls usually hold just one dancer or other solo performer, such as a jugglers or magicians.  Some dance companies are even putting on entire shows themed around performers in zorbing balls, with spectacular results.

Zorbing at the Russian Olympics

Winter Olympics 2014

Citizens of Russia, not a country known for its outdoor sporting scene, has even embraced the concept of zorbing now – by choosing the zorbing ball as an official symbol for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  The beautiful, giant snow globes are intended to show the rich history of the Russian people.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, CEO of the 2014 Winter Olympic organizing committee, told the world that zorbing balls represent the transparency of the new Russia.  The concept of openness that a zorbing ball embodies fits in well with the motto of the Sochi Games – ‘Gateway to the Future’.  The world is waiting to see more Russian zorbing balls in 2014.

Zorbing at the Russian Olympics

This is a guest blog post from Zorbing South UK – pioneers of zorbing in England, and providers of great adventure days in the UK. For more information, please visit the Zorbing South website.

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One Response to Zorbing and Its Olympic Aspirations

  1. I’d like to try zorbing with water walking. I’ve seen a lot of it but most players are children. I’m afraid I have to say that I always felt jealous when those kids were squealing and enjoying zorbing while I watch them. LOL.

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