Never would I have done this in New York, that’s for certain. “Zorbing-what on earth is that”? Before New Zealand I had no idea; but, after New Zealand I can happily say “I came, I zorbed and I conquered”! Zorbing has existed for over fifteen years in Rotorua on the north island of New Zealand and is slowly making its way to the United States. My ZORB experience of December 2005 left a very memorable impression-it was like nothing I’d ever before done.
Our Contiki bus pulled up to what looked like a makeshift park on the side of the road. I bought a ticket and was told I only had one option of zorbing because of my height (I’m only 4’11”). At the time, there were two zorbing options-a dry one and a wet one. For the dry one, which would hurl you down a track in a huge plastic balloon, you had to be able to reach the shackles near the top and bottom curvatures of the ball. This was clearly not happening for me. For the wet one, my only option, neither height nor track mattered. There would be water involved, an inner ball, a hillside, a running dive and fingers crossed, a safe landing. I took a deep breath, stripped down to my bathers & shorts, asked Mat, one of the Australians on the tour (who would later become my husband) to hold my camera and walked barefoot to stand in the queue.
What I saw waiting in front of me was scary, but; it was the good kind of scary. Talk about being outside of your comfort zone! There was a large hill that I had to climb while waiting my turn (because that wouldn’t give me time to change my mind or anything). The bottom seemed kilometers away, but, on the plus side, I could see the people down there and from the sights and sounds of the masses they were all alive and happy. In front of me was what looked like a combination of a huge golf ball, a bubble blown from the wand of a child and the largest clear plastic beach ball I’d ever seen. It was taller than me by six feet or so and wider by at least the same. There was no harness, track, or safety helmet (don’t tell my mother) but, as expected, there was a waiver to sign your life away upon ticket purchase. There was a man at the top of the hill to tell me what to do and hold the zorb for me to start. He would then be the same man to basically throw me down that hill while another helper awaited my arrival at the bottom to hopefully halt my zooming zorb. “Deep breath, deep breath” said the voices in my head.
I took a flying leap into the small circular doorway of my zorb. A headfirst dive placed me in a smaller circle inside the giant orb. “Plop”! I fell into about 4 inches of water that would continue to slosh me around throughout my entire descent. “Ready”, asked my Zorb Master. With a questionable smile and a nod of my very unsure head, I mouthed ‘sure’. With that he closed the door. I was inside one ball, which was inside of another. I actually paid money to have someone lock me in a plastic ball and throw me down the side of a hill. Yeah, this was normal! The zorb rocked back and forward and then, “aaaahhhhhhhh”, I was off to tumble into oblivion.
The outer circle spun down the hillside at what felt like Formula 1 speed. It looked to spectators as if I was toppling head over heels, but I wasn’t. A constant stream of laughter, earsplitting shrieks and happy noises that were definitely not words escaped my lips in a rush of adrenaline. Whirling around in my water-lined ball, I slipped from side to side, front to back and couldn’t hold my head straight for the slightest second, but; I never flipped over. “Whack” was all I heard as I continued to slam in all directions as my mode of transport plummeted from what felt like space to earth. And then-stop. It was over in a flash. I had landed. I had lived and I had most certainly zorbed!
As I shimmied headfirst (which was a sight to see) out of my orbed space suit, my face hurt from smiling and I had to catch my asthmatic breath from screaming with glee the entire ride. I took the obligatory photo with this monstrous sized ball of fun and bounced over to retrieve my photo-filled camera from Mat.
Friends back home who heard my tale couldn’t believe it. Had it not been for photographic evidence they wouldn’t have thought it possible. This was not a risk I would have taken, but I did. I leapt, and the net appeared in the form of ball of plastic in a tiny country about as far from mine as you can fly. New Zealand is not for the faint of heart and zorbing fits in quite well with the adventurous spirit of its culture. If you have the opportunity to visit the untouched beauty in the land of the Maoris, consider yourself lucky. Leap…and your zorb will appear.