There are two types of land zorbing rides: dry and wet. In areas where there are no natural hills or contours for the zorb to manoeuvre, a special track is constructed, either out of metal or by shaping a natural barrier from the land itself.
On a dry ride, the rider is strapped into the zorb against one wall. The operator releases the zorb, and the rider rolls, head over heels, downhill. In hydro-zorbing, the passenger isn’t strapped to the zorb wall. The operator adds about five gallons of warm or cold water — depending on the weather — to the inside of the zorb, then sends the passenger on a wild ride. The passenger slips and sloshes around the inside of the ball as it rolls. Not surprising that the wet ride has been nick named – the washing machine ride!
Even though the zorb is clear plastic, the passenger is somewhat limited in what he or she can see while rolling downhill. Because the zorb has two layers of plastic and because of its speed, it becomes difficult to discern the sky from the ground when you’re on a roll.
The sphere doesn’t travel fast enough to become airborne over bumps, but it will bounce +as it turns down the hill. The actual speed depends on a variety of factors, including whether you’re rolling into a headwind, the weight of the passengers and if you’re strapped in or riding free. When strapped in, you’ll pick up more speed.
Contrary to what you might think, zorbing isn’t particularly nauseating — well, at least according to Andrew Akers, one of the sphere’s inventors. He says that in over 100,000 rides, no one has ever thrown up. While the zorb moves downhill at a good speed, because of its circumference, the person inside only makes one complete rotation about every 30 feet (9 m). While the length of each track varies, you can generally expect about 700 feet (213 m) of fun on your ride.
Zorbing is considered safe and has an excellent safety record. A harness keeps the rider in place on dry rides, and the 459 cubic feet (13 cubic meters) of air sandwiched between the two plastic balls provides ample cushioning.
Because the zorb is on a confined track, the rider has no control over steering or stopping the ball, so a trained operator releases the ball. At the bottom of the hill, the zorb gradually slows to a stop, where another operator is waiting to secure the zorb so you can climb out with ease. A zorb course on land has small cushioned bumps on the surface that keep the zorb in line and the specially designed tracks have barriers on each side to prevent the zorb from veering from it’s designated course.
While it’s not unheard of for a zorb to get a puncture, it won’t pop and shoot down the hill like a balloon releasing air. Any hole in the zorb will lead to a slow air leak. As the air leaks out, the zorb loses its round shape and rolls slower and slower until it settles to a stop. Of course, with the amount of air a zorb contains, it can lose a good bit before the passenger notices any change in performance at all.