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Downhill Zorbing Picture Nr.: 1532366
Downhill Zorbing | ©: PanchoOn on Pixabay


It is simply a captivating idea. Of course, having fun with one of the best-known and oldest sports equipment in the world is nothing new. But when this piece of sports equipment has dimensions that go far beyond the normal and the players themselves become part of the equipment, it is a truly fascinating experience.

Zorbing - in the beginning, was the ball.

Once again, China is considered the country that invented things that centuries later caused a sensation worldwide. Thus, for example, the paper, printing, explosives, the compass, and the soccer, even if the latter idea initially perished again in ancient China, only to be revived about 1600 years later in Great Britain where it led to greatness.

From this ball, however, something else arose. For example, the idea of using it to roll down Niagara Falls, or even better, to fall down. This is precisely what the French-Canadian Jean Lussier did on July 4, 1928, cleverly not clinging to a ball, but inside a rubber ball about 180 cm in diameter, filled with air. Lussier, then 37, survived the fall, something some other Niagara conquerors without a rubber ball could not claim.

Perhaps Lussier's oversized rubber ball was a model for the idea of French architect Gilles Ebersolt, who invented the "Ballule" in the 1970s. A ball within a ball that could be climbed into. In 1990, the Ballule received its first significant attention in the movie "Operation Condor" starring Jackie Chan. About five years later, it became the "Zorb," christened by two New Zealanders who simply "invented" the Ballule once again. The name Zorb came from the rolling sound of the ball, which sounds something like Zorb onomatopoeically. In any case, zorbing was born, and with it, a fun game idea that went around the world and still does. Today, zorbing is a fun sport of a particular kind. Centered around a ball made of transparent PU or PVC, a second, smaller ball is fixed so that it always remains in the center of the outer ball. In total, the zorbing ball measures over 3 meters in diameter. The inner ball has room for one to three people, who now roll down slopes as part of the Zorb, float on the water, or even roll on flat surfaces, or are moved forward by their own power.

In the meantime, other ideas have developed around the Zorb Ball. Such as the Bubble Soccer, which looks a bit like the bumper cars known from fairs, only without a car, but with safe impact protection. Whichever variant is chosen, zorbing is a team sport with the highest fun factor for the participants and the spectators.

Zorbing - together we can do everything!

It may be fun to do it alone, but zorbing is most fun in a group, in a team.

Depending on which type of zorbing is played, excitement and adrenaline are guaranteed. But there is also joy and a bit of schadenfreude when the opposing team is outnumbered, or the other teammate unintentionally cuts a funny figure. Because zorbing almost automatically implies that even well-trained athletes do not have everything under control. Zorbing is always a fight with the element giant ball, which exceeds the standard dimensions and remains unpredictable.

Anyone healthy can participate, which is why zorbing is ideal as a team sport, especially as an event that is not common.

What physical skills are needed?

Neither Olympic gold medals nor world championship titles in any sport is required to participate in zorbing. It is not uncommon to find that many a teammate or team opponent is inferior to the die-hard couch potato despite athletic fitness. Zorbing activates in a playful way, not only the responsible muscles. Zorbing demands something else.

The sense of balance is put to the test. Because it is almost impossible to tell where up or down is while the Zorb is rolling. In addition, arms and legs must be used to support oneself and balance as much as possible, although this is actually impossible. Nevertheless, thanks to the body's own reflexes, it is attempted. Motor skills, coordination, and personal courage are challenged. The nice thing is that nothing serious can happen. The thick air cushion simply absorbs everything. No doubt, one or the other team member will complain about sore muscles after the event. Still, they will be complaints accompanied by their own laughter, simply because it is almost addictive fun.

Zorbing - a versatile sport

The transparent giant ball with its passenger or passengers, called zorbonauts in professional circles, is best moved on flat lawns or on indoor floors. The surface does not have to be smooth as glass. Thanks to the very stable PVC or PU that makes up the outer shell, the Zorb can tolerate very uneven surfaces. Gravel or rolling gravel, however, are less suitable surfaces. For example, they hinder the rolling motion and make it unnecessarily difficult for any team player to move the ball.

Ideally, it is a soccer field with grass or an indoor floor, such as a school gymnasium, on which the Zorb is guided through a course.

Another variant is water zorbing, which has an extraordinarily dynamic, however, not above Niagara Falls or similar cascades, but rather in a generously built swimming pool, perhaps the local outdoor pool as part of an event.

The most challenging and original form of zorbing is to roll down a steep mountainside like Jackie Chan in Operation Condor. This, however, should only be done under professional guidance and supervision, as certain dangers are lurking in the process, but more on that later.

The bubble mentioned above soccer, on the other hand, is ideal for soccer fields with grass or halls.

Zorbing balls in shape and size

The original is the Zorb, which is 3.20 m in diameter. Depending on the application, it has a larger or smaller inner ball and can also be equipped with strap holders. If the Zorb is used mainly horizontally on grass or indoors, the straps are not necessary.

The Aqua Walker is a version of the Zorb that consists only of an inflatable outer shell. A person can enter employing an airtight zipper and thus walk on water, similar to a famous figure from Nazareth.

Of course, the Zorb with the inner sphere is also available for the pool or swimming pool, which develops a much higher momentum than the Aqua-Walker and increases the fun factor.

Bubble Soccer with Body Zorbs is tremendous fun for team players of all ages. Each team member's head, arms, and torso are stuck in a large, soft, air-filled shell. Only the legs stick out at the bottom so that they can walk. Just the sight of these walking balloons is so funny that people sometimes forget the game itself because they laughed so hard. Even the infamous body check becomes a hazard-free encounter. Usually characterized by two or three opponents rattling against each other in a ball game, bouncing off each other like soap bubbles. Playing soccer this way is simply great fun with an uncertain outcome. Even Ronaldo would have a hard time getting the ball into the net.

What are the risks of zorbing?

A big part of the fun with a zorb is that it is only controllable to a limited extent. However, under certain circumstances, this uncontrollability can also become a danger. This is usually the case when specific safety measures have not been followed beforehand. The most significant risk here is downhill zorbing, i.e., when Jackie Chan is imitated, and a mountain is rolled down.

Everything on this earth is subject to the force of attraction. Every downward rolling or falling body accelerates until it is braked or stopped, theoretically until it reaches the speed of light. A zorbing ball rolling down a steep mountain slope without braking reaches a speed of about 150 to 200 km/h after only about 300 meters. At the same time, its impact energy increases many times over. No matter how sturdy the PVC cover, it cannot absorb this. This was the experience of two young men in Russia in 2013 when a zorbing ball ran out of its intended path as it rolled down the hill. One was seriously injured, the other died on the way to the hospital. The organizer was to blame for the accident. He neither adhered to the safety guidelines specified by the manufacturer Zorb nor used original Zorb balls.

Something similar happened in 2009 in the Czech Republic, where one person died.

Similarly, in 2014, the operators of an aqua-fun park near the Greek capital Athens violated safety regulations. As a result, a zorbing cylinder was pushed out of the water pool by a gust of wind. This time, a 13-year-old boy died, and his nine-year-old sister was seriously injured.

Is zorbing too risky?

Concerning the number of people who practice zorbing worldwide and in relation to similar sports, it is by no means dangerous. Paragliding, for example, kills several dozen people worldwide every year. Downhill mountain biking also regularly claims lives.

Zorbing becomes dangerous when people literally shoot beyond the actual target. Especially when the organizers underestimate the dangers. Of course, there are always a few bruises and maybe a contusion, but hardly ever something really tragic. It is important to note that people with certain medical conditions should not go zorbing. For example, if you suffer from claustrophobia, have problems with your heart or circulation, or have back problems, zorbing is unsuitable for you.

Another widespread problem today is the use of unsafe sports equipment. For example, the manufacturer Zorb gives a warranty for its balls within the terms of use. Unfortunately, however, there are a large number of imitation balls that do not meet the required quality standards. As a result, the zippers of aqua balls, for example, can leak, or seams can burst downhill.

ZORB® Europe can claim that since its founding in the 1990s, no serious accidents have occurred with its products. All of the accidents mentioned above occurred with products from other manufacturers.

Why not organize a zorbing event yourself?

Zorbing balls Picture Nr.: 2360531
Zorbingballs in the water | ©: Mayya666 on Pixabay

The zorbing fun can be easily carried out if a few safety rules are observed in advance. The most crucial point is the freedom of movement of the ball and thus also of the fellow players. This means in the implementation that, for example, fenced soccer fields are very suitable for zorbing. Thanks to perimeter advertising by sponsors, such courts can be found in practically every larger community. Any remaining gaps can be closed with a tightly stretched rope. For the same reason, sports or community halls are just as suitable.

For the large Zorbing balls, courses and obstacle courses can be set up to compete against each other. A catchword for this is green zorbing.

Large sports fields and meadows are also well suited for bubble soccer.

Those who absolutely want to organize water games, which has its justification for increasingly warmer summers, should only carry them out in a non-swimmer pool. Thanks to its shallow depth, it is possible to intervene immediately without further measures if problems arise. As already mentioned in the topic of risks, attention should be paid to the weather in outdoor pools. Three-meter-high balls are like large sails and can easily be pushed out of the pool by the wind.

Downhill zorbing on a mountain or aqua zorbing on open water is possible, but professional assistance is needed. The safety precautions are pretty elaborate but also necessary.

Professional providers of such events, certified by ZORB® Europe, know what is at stake and provide the specialized staff and the appropriate equipment. This usually also guarantees that an insurance company will cover the liability, without which more significant events of any kind hardly take place today.

Buy or rent a Zorb

With some things, the question may be asked whether now rented or immediately bought.

A zorbing ball with a diameter of more than 3 meters is not a beach ball that can be easily stored in a bathing bag. Not to mention the inflation. Such a ball strikes including a pump with approximately 1800 euro to beech, possible repair materials not yet included. That should be well considered, because who is not a straight organizer and earns thereby its money, with the renting version clearly better one will drive.

Thus, for example, renting offers for the Aqua Zorbing exist, containing the flatwater pool with 12 x 10 m surface, up to six Zorbing balls, the structure and dismantling, and the personnel. Only the appropriate space is needed, and the fun can start within half an hour (set-up time). The entire cost for five hours just once approx. 750 euro. If it should last longer, each additional hour strikes with 80 euros to the beech (price status spring 2019).

Sometimes, however, associations and youth organizations keep zorbing balls in stock and lend them to their members.

Somewhat cheaper and also more often usable are the much smaller balls for bubble soccer. But they are also between 70 and 150 euros for a ball. After all, 1000 euros is enough to buy 8 or 10 balls and equip two small teams with them. These balls are also easier to repair, just as they are easier to transport than their mega-brothers. This puts bubble soccer or bumper balls more in the realm of buying.

Whether it is a giant ball on land or water or a bubble soccer ball where bubble fights bubble for goal, it almost doesn't matter because it's just something new that combines fun, sport, and skill for most kids and adults.

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