Photo courtesy of ZORB. Soloing in the Zydro.

This spring, pack away your parachute, hang up your harness, and bind up your bungee, because the world of extreme sports can now offer you much more than the same old activities of jumping out of planes, hanging from cliffs, or diving off bridges with just a cord attached to you. Though this sport has been around for nearly 10 years, it is relatively new to the United States. The name? Globe-riding.

To get an image of what this sport is all about, think domesticated rodents—gerbils, rats, hampsters. If you had a hamster when you were a kid, you probably put it in a big plastic ball and let it run around your house all day. Now imagine that you’re that hamster. But instead of rolling yourself from place to place by pushing from the inside of the ball, you will be taken to the top of a hill and given a good, hard shove, sending you hurtling downward, spinning wildly out of control, the world outside melting into a complex streak of colliding color.  

What do you say? Not intense enough for you? Well then, why don’t you try adding a couple buckets of water and a few friends to your adventure? Instead of feeling like a hamster, you now feel like a wet sock flopping around the inside of a running washing machine. The whole thing is terribly silly and extraordinarily fun.

It all started with the invention of a 12-foot, inflatable plastic ball that is cushioned to be safe enough for people to bounce around the inside. Also called “sphering,” “freeballin,’” and “orbing,” this sport was invented by a company called ZORB in Rotura, New Zealand, in 1994. In 2007, ZORB opened a second location: ZORB Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s the same company that people have been enjoying for years, but now it’s closer than ever.

Photo courtesy of ZORB. Hurtling in the Zorbit.

At ZORB, you can try the Zorbit (a one-person ride, in which you are strapped to the inside of the ball by yourself) or the Zydro (where five gallons of water are added to the inside of the ball, along with two of your friends). You can also choose to speed-topple right down the straight track or take the zig-zag route—which is a bit longer and much wilder.

“I just remember being free and falling,” says Shannon Despain, who visited ZORB in Rotura, New Zealand a couple years back. “I was laughing so hard it hurt. At the end, I thought, ‘I want to do it again!’”

ZORB was the first globe-riding company in the US, but in the last few years several locations have emerged across the country, generously offering to push you down a hill in a giant plastic ball. Seriously.

In the Wisconsin Dells in Madison, Wisconsin, you can go freeballin. Here, the ball is placed on a ramp, and you are rolled from the top. The park also hopes to open a section where you can freeball on water; basically, you just roll around inside of a floating ball. Awesome.

Photo courtesy of ZORB. Zorbing at sunset.

Amesbury Sports Park in Amesbury, Massachusetts—a ski resort and tubing park in the winter—offers what they call OGOing in the summer. You can try the IGO (the solitary, dry ride) or the H2OGO (the wet ride with friends). Will Courtney, Operations Director of the park, says of his own experience with the H2OGO, “My friends and I were a little bit closer by the time we got to the bottom.”

Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, is the fourth location in the United States and also has OGO balls.  

Many other countries are also adopting the sport, so you can now try it almost anywhere you travel this spring. Look for globe-riding in such places as England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, the North Pole, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, and Thailand.

With excitement for this sport growing, now is the time to get out and try it! Get out and get your feet wet—or in the case of the Zydro or H2OGO, get your whole body soaked!

—Vanae Nielsen