Since the 1970s, no hamster cage is complete without the hard, plastic ball for the little rodent. If you put a human into a very similar sphere, you, however, have creativity. Growing up watching American Gladiators, I knew just how competitors could use the atlaspheres, in all their metal glory, to score points and look silly while doing it.
In 1994, brothers David and Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis reinvented the idea of a human hamster ball. They scrapped the idea of a giant metal or hard plastic sphere, and instead turned their attention to flexible plastic or clear polyvinyl chloride.
Their new idea created a sport all of its own: zorbing.
Zorbing did not come as a solution to a pressing problem, but this does not jeopardize its creative nature. Instead, the Akers brothers and van der Sluis generated something completely unfamiliar. This novelty makes zorbing a very creative discovery in the realm of recreation.
The first zorbing site still stands in Rotorua, New Zealand. The zorb looks like a large bubble, measuring 10.5 feet in diameter and weighing over 200 pounds.
Originally, the Akers brothers and van der Sluis wanted to make the spheres for walking on water. They somewhat quickly reinvented their vision. With the rolling hills of New Zealand at their fingertips, they invented the sport of zorbing as it stands today.
In New Zealand, zorbing is a rite of passage for thrill-seekers. Zorbing sits right next to bungee jumping and skydiving in the realm of extreme sports. Zorbers can either pick a dry run or hydrozorbing (with gallons of water in the sphere).
When I ventured to the zorb hill, only the zigzag course was open because two people had fallen off the cliff after gaining too much momentum earlier in the day. Now that is an extreme sport. Luckily, the double-sectioned inflatable ball with air in between kept them safe.
There are two world records for the extreme sport. The longest ride is 1,870 feet by Steve Camp, and the highest speed is 32 miles per hour by Keith Kolver.
Zorbing has caught on. The sport, sometimes referred to as globe-riding, orbing or sphering, has infiltrated over 18 countries. Even Rick Reilly with ESPN featured zorbing in his book Sports from Hell.
The Akers brothers and van der Sluis came up with a unique and creative new product that has now become a prominent sport worldwide. The closest place to Chicago to try your hand at zorbing is in the Wisconsin Dells.
Still, the zorb looks like a giant hamster ball.