Zorbing: Adventures in a Hamster Ball
It was a cloudy day, but we headed down the M1 towards the Gold Coast. Arriving at our destination around 9/9:30AM. Destination: OzBall.
It was about a year ago I had seen video of this amazing, thrilling ride. A weatherman on Sunrise 7 strapped inside a huge plastic ball rolled down a hill. This is called zorbing. Apparently it has been around for decades and can be found in quite a few countries. I knew I must try this on my next trip to Australia. Despite bewildered looks and headshakes from my family, I was going zorbing.
We left the car in the car park and walked through a field to the entrance to OzBall Park. It’s a little off the beaten track. But there it was, a huge grassy hill, the zorb shining in all its glory at the top. Beckoning, if we dare.
OzBall has two zorbs. One is the Hydro Ride where 1-3 riders slosh around in water within the zorb. To me, it’s what being trapped in the washing machine on the delicate cycle would look like. The other is the Harness Ride. The real deal; where you’re strapped to the wall of the zorb facing your fellow zorber, all zany-eyed and excited because you’re a self-described thrill seeker! Little did I know that ride was to exert every known (and unknown) calculable physical force on my body. There was no line or wait for the harness ride. Hmmm.
The Zorb (The Hamster Ball)
You enter the zorb by pulling yourself through a tunnel-like entrance. The zorb is massive – measuring about 3 metres (10 ft) in diameter. Tucked inside is an inner orb about 2 metres (6 ft 7 in). The space between the two orbs creates a shock absorbing, air cushion, connected by hundreds of small nylon strings. The tough, durable plastic is approximately 0.8 millimetres (0.03 in) thick. Shackled securely in my seat by 3 safety mechanisms: the chest harness, lap belt and ankle restraints; I felt completely safe.
140 metres (459 ft) is not a long distance. And the speed seemed along the lines of a kid’s carnival ride, reaching up to 30 KPH (19 MPH). I didn’t factor into account the slope of the hill. And it’s not merely an up and down motion, but a side-to-side motion as well. I think you can see where I am going with this. I got way more than the adrenaline rush I bargained for. No projectile vomit or anything of the sort. Just a lot of screaming and wishing for it to be over. It seemed an eternity had passed. The zorb paused. The zorb started moving again. More screaming. The only words I could get out of my mouth were, “Oh, it’s not over yet!” Rolling down the hill, eyes open, eyes shut, trying to stare out the porthole at the grass to fixate my glaze on a constant sight. Finally. The. Zorb. Stopped.
Lawnmower martini. Not sure what that is, but that’s what I felt like. I could hardly speak, but got out of that zorb as fast as possible. Slight dizziness, wobbly, and an insane amount of belching from all the air trapped inside my stomach. The OzBall operators offered us a free hydro ride for being such good sports. I politely declined the invitation.
The point of this story is that it is an incredible opportunity for learning about physics! And how fun science can be when applied to wacky and crazy ideas! I always wanted to go to the theme park on a field trip to ride roller coasters and learn about the forces at work. OK, I really just wanted to ride roller coasters. Man, some science classes were so lucky!
Whether it’s an activity like zorbing, or riding roller coasters, biking, skiing or skateboarding, science is involved. Tools working in tandem with the human body for the benefit of amusement. How far you decide to delve into the science behind each is up to you. I believe that is how to keep science fun and entertaining and keep the kids coming back from more. Education could take a cue from zorbing’s playbook – just let go and roll down the hill.
As for me, I’m glad I tried it; ticked the zorbing experience box. If you saw that episode of Modern Family where Phil does everything in his power to remain a roller coaster fanatic so he can retain that bond with his son, Luke; then you know what I’m talking about. But I’m going to lock this one away and slowly try to rebuild my street cred. (Thank goodness we didn’t opt for the video!)
Warning: Zorbing has been labelled an “adventure sport”, like bungee jumping or skydiving and can be dangerous if the right precautions are not taken. Even riding a roller coaster can sometimes end in tragic results. Deaths from zorbing have occurred, one in Russia just last week. A grassy hill with a catch containment system at the bottom is much different than going down a snowy, rocky mountain. Exercise your best judgement and caution if you are going to attempt zorbing.
Burnes K (2013-01-17 00:34:00). Zorbing: Adventures in a Hamster Ball. Australian Science. Retrieved: Mar 31, 2023, from https://ozscience.com/news/zorbing-adventures-in-a-hamster-ball/