They’re lining up to do it in Slovenia, it’s all the rage in Los Cabos and they can’t get enough of it in the Smoky Mountains.
It’s called zorbing or sphereing, and on July 12 you can get a look at the latest in extreme sports at the Amesbury Sports Park. Amesbury riders will get the chance to go OGOing, or spinning down a slope in an outdoor gravity orb, an American edition of the Zorb which launched back in 1993 when two New Zealand guys who apparently had gads of free time decided they wanted to walk on water.
Dwayne van der Sluis and Andrew Akers created a transparent inflatable ball with an inside compartment for a rider who did, in fact, walk on waves. But the inventors discovered soon enough it was more fun to roll down a hill than slosh across a pond. Zorbing was born.
“It’s really a wild ride,” says Bob Ramshaw, a spokesman for Amesbury Sport Park. “All you see while you’re rolling down is ground and sky. It’s a lot of fun.”
Amesbury Sports Park will offer two types of OGO rides. The first calls for being strapped into a harness inside the ball and rolling head-over-heels down an 800-foot-long track designed especially for the ride.
The second is a water ball or, as Ramshaw likes to call it, the H2O OGO.
“You get in and we throw five gallons of water in with you,” says Ramshaw. “You slip and slide inside as you roll down.”
Chris Roberts, CEO of Outdoor Gravity Inc., the company that partnered with Amesbury Sports Park to bring OGOs to the area, says being in the water ball is like being in a washing machine and on a roller coaster at the same time. And honestly, who wouldn’t welcome that?
While a grand opening is always a lot of work, Ramshaw has been particularly busy this week assuring potential OGOers that the ride is safe. Last weekend, a reporter in Maine took a test ride in a Zorb set up by another company, Zorb New England. The ball struck a hay-encased pole and went airborne before coming down for a hard landing.
Rebecca Meltzer fractured her back and injured a kidney. State officials are now investigating the accident.
The Amesbury Sports Park had originally been working with Zorb New England, but the park broke off the deal last month after learning the history of the company’s owner, Barry Billcliff. A couple of years back, Billcliff and several other men claimed to have dug up more than $700,000 in old money in a backyard in Methuen. Police later charged them with stealing the bills from a Newbury barn where they had been working to repair the roof.
Although the charges were eventually dropped, Amesbury Sports Park, which has been careful to cultivate its reputation as a family destination, broke off its relationship with Zorb New England.
But close one door and another one usually blows open. Soon after Zorb New England left the stage, the sports park began working with Roberts, who has spent a couple of years with the original New Zealand company creating a Zorb Park in Tennessee.
“We’re grateful for his history and expertise,” says Ramshaw, who adds that Roberts is a mechanical engineer with lots of experience with the product. Roberts designed and patented the OGOs, which are now ready to roll in Amesbury.
Ramshaw says the OGOs travel about 20 to 23 mph down a track constructed specifically for the ride.
“We have sports turf on our track which has been professionally designed,” says Ramshaw. “This has all been professionally engineered by someone who worked with the actual inventors.”
Individual rides are $15; $40 for a package of three. The Park will be offering coupons and packages that combine OGO ride tickets with passes for their other big attraction, summer tubing. Go to www.amesburysportspark.net.
Thanks to Barbara Taormina and the MetroWest Daily News for bringing my attention to this story.
Zorbing! Yes it looks kind of funny and it is!