Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's It Like to Ride the Zorb?

Riding in a Zorb is a wild rebirth of an experience.

Last year when my husband and I were watching the Amazing Race, the contestants raced down a hill with Zorbs in New Zealand. We knew we’d jump at a chance to try. After firming up our vacation plans with our friends to go to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, my husband and I were dual-laptop researching the area and he turned his screen toward me with his find. “The Zorb! How close?” I asked. “IN Pigeon Forge.” Woah, baby!

After hiking along cascading streams and then to the top of an amazing waterfall in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our group was hot and wanted to cool off. Ranging in age from 8 to 48, the nine of us couldn’t wait to ride in a giant ball.

For years I played with my sons designing Marble Raceways and dropping balls down plastic chutes. At the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, one exhibit has balls travelling around on metal tracks. Maybe because I love roller coasters, I always stare fascinated by the motion of gravity, trying to imagine what it would feel like to be on those tracks. This was my chance to be IN A BALL as it free falls, twisting, turning, reversing down a zig-zag trail on the side of a mountain.

So what’s it really like? You start by diving in arms first through a small tunnel. You are zipped in twice for the inner and outer balls. The ride is too brief, only 40 seconds. The sensations were just as I imagined and I laughed the whole way down. Water in the Zorb allows your body to shift from side to side, back and forth. Sort of like body surfing on a wave but with much more motion and sloshing. You are at the mercy of your weight and gravity then wind up falling backwards. If the zippered opening rips across your back, you need to shift your body to another side or pay a raw red consequence. You get out by slipping feet first out of the hole with all the water, which resembles my vision of birth a little too closely. We all felt a weird birthing moment at the end.

The price for our group was $33 each. That’s a steep cost for such a quick experience but we all were glad we did the Zorb. It’s just one of those things you HAVE to do in your life because you CAN! We all tried the water version, Zydro. The other version is Zorbit, which allows you to experience weightlessness and g-force. My arm was in a sling and I’m still trying to decide if I would have strapped myself in for the dry rollover version if it wasn’t.

Maybe I have an addiction to balls but you want to ride the Zorb, even if it’s just once in your life!

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