On (er, in) the Ball

1201019199Scrolling through hundreds of travel PR pitches (hot Cabo nights now $199! say “I do” in Russian luxury! save 40% in St. Moritz!) can be carpal tunnel-inducing business, which is why we get a little too excited when something truly fresh—and entirely bizarre—enters our inbox.

This week’s winner—thank you, Elliot Gillies—is Zorbing. The art of careening down a hillside in a Zorb, a giant clear inflatable platic ball, the extreme sport is a succint mix of imagination, physics, and insanity.

Invented in 1995 in New Zealand by Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis (because “to be honest, there wasn’t much to do, we [had] to make our own fun”) the Zorb measures 10 and 1/2 feet in diameter and can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

Typically, people are sealed inside and pushed over the edge of a slope, left to tumble around wildly (think going over Niagra in a barrel, plus padded walls). Recent innovations include the “Harness Zorb,” which straps the rider into place, and the “Hydro Zorb,” which—you guessed it—involves a thorough soaking.

Historically, unless you were Peter Gabriel or a contestant on the Amazing Race, your dreams of becoming a Zorbonaut were just that. But last year, some outlandish southerners opened the first official U.S. site in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. For around $30 each, gaggles of Americans can now engage in what the company aptly terms “stupid things to do while you’re not thinking about work.”

You’re probably wondering, What does Tennessee have to do with Bostonista? Very little, we assure you. But we’ll try anything once, and it just so happens that Zorbs can be deflated and easily shipped around the world…

Our summer staff outing suddenly got a lot more interesting.