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zorbing also Zorbing

noun [uncountable]

an extreme sport in which a person is strapped inside a very large plastic ball and rolled down a hillside

zorb also Zorb

verb [intransitive]

zorb also Zorb

noun [countable]

the very large plastic ball used in the extreme sport of zorbing

zorbonaut also Zorbonaut

noun [countable]

someone who participates in the extreme sport of zorbing

'From the folks who brought you bungee jumping (sort of) and glow worm cave tubing, not to mention Kiwi fruit and the knock your socks off scenery of the Lord of the Rings, now comes Zorbing … imagine yourself taking momentary leave of both your senses and the little cubicle you call your office, and harnessing yourself into a VW-sized, transparent ball of plastic. Then imagine someone rolling you down a steep hill at 25 mph.'

gadling.com 10th August 2005

'Once you're in the fun really starts as the Zorb is launched down a hill and reaches speeds of up to 50km per hour, while you roll and bounce around inside … I Zorbed in Rotorua in NZ, and it was the most fantastic thing! We could not breathe we laughed so hard …'

BBC Dorset 26th April 2006

'On 25th June 2006, the staff at Surf-wax officially became Zorbonauts. We travelled just one hour up the road to Dorchester to the home of Zorb South, to throw ourselves downhill inside an inflatable ball.'

surf-wax.co.uk June 2006

If you're an adrenaline junkie, and bungee jumping just seems like yesterday's news, or if you're struggling for birthday present ideas for a thrill-seeking friend, why not consider one of the world's latest extreme sports – zorbing.

the 'thrill' comes from rolling around at top speed in an uncontrollable but completely safe air cushion

Zorbing involves being strapped inside a gigantic plastic ball and launched off a hillside. The 'thrill' comes from rolling around at top speed in an uncontrollable but completely safe air cushion, described by aficionados as a 'fantastic' experience.

The PVC ball, referred to as the zorb, looks like a giant beach ball and is around three metres in diameter. It takes around 15 minutes to inflate, and contains an inner ball, or 'cockpit', which can accommodate up to three participants, also described as zorbonauts. Zorbonauts can choose to be accompanied by one or two other people (a double or triple zorb), or enjoy the experience alone. They also have the choice of a dry or harness zorb, where participants are strapped in, or alternatively a wet or hydro zorb, where a few buckets of water are thrown inside the ball and the zorbonaut sloshes around in it rather like an item of clothing inside a washing machine on a rinse and spin cycle.

Zorbing doesn't require any level of skill or fitness, just the ability to keep down your food …

Background – zorbing

Like bungee jumping, zorbing originated in New Zealand, now often considered the birthplace of extreme sports. The expression zorb was coined in the early 1990s by New Zealand scientists David and Andrew Akers and Dwayne van der Sluis, who invented the giant plastic ball and in 1994 built the first test run in the tourist town of Rotorua. Zorbing went commercial in 1998, and is now franchised all over the world.

The idea for the zorb ball is thought to have taken inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci's anatomy of man drawings.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 25th January 2007.

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