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Zorbs in Rotorua
|Highest governing body||ZORB Limited|
|First played||1994, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand|
|Type||Indoor or Outdoor and extreme|
Zorbing (globe-riding, sphereing, orbing) is the recreation or sport of rolling downhill inside an orb, generally made of transparent plastic. Zorbing is generally performed on a gentle slope, but can also be done on a level surface, permitting more rider control. In the absence of hills some operators have constructed inflatable, wooden, or metal ramps. Due to the buoyant nature of the orbs, Zorbing can also be carried out on water, provided the orb is inflated properly and sealed once the rider is inside. "Water walking" using such orbs has become popular in theme parks across the UK. There are two types of orbs, harnessed and non-harnessed. Non-harness orbs carry up to three riders, while the harness orbs are constructed for one to two riders. Double-harness spheres have different slope requirements, and must only be operated in specific locations. The longer runs are approximately half a mile. The first zorbing site was established in Rotorua, New Zealand, by David and Andrew Akers.
Hamster balls, hard plastic single layer spheres made for small rodent pets, have been manufactured and sold since at least the 1970s. A Russian article on the Zorb mentions a similar device having debuted in 1973. In the early 1980s, the Dangerous Sports Club constructed a giant sphere (reportedly 23 metres or 75 feet across) with a gimbal arrangement supporting two deck chairs inside. This device was eventually cut up for scrap, with some of the plastic remnants used to cover a compost heap. Human spheres have been depicted in mass media since 1990, when the Gladiators event "Atlaspheres" first aired, albeit with steel balls. The 1991 film Armour of God II: Operation Condor features a scene in which Jackie Chan appears to roll down a mountainside in a flexible plastic orb very similar to the Zorb, except with only one entrance/exit tunnel, and with more space between the inner and outer orbs.
In 1994, Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers conceived the idea for a type of sphere in Auckland, New Zealand, calling their invention the "Zorb". With two other investors they created the firm ZORB Limited, and set to work commercializing sphereing. Their business model was to develop the activity worldwide via a franchise system. In 2000, van der Sluis exited from the company to return to his career as a software engineer; Akers continued to run the company as CEO until April 2006, when he resigned. Around this time, ZORB's European master franchise operator, Michael Stemp, and Hungarian master franchise operator, Attila Csató, ended their affiliation with ZORB and started a manufacturing and sphereing consultancy firm, Downhill Revolution, and created the tubular "human cocktail maker" Spinfizz. Andrew Akers and his brother David Akers have since teamed up with Chris Roberts to create the OGO (Outdoor Gravity Orb) and The Fishpipe.
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