Yes, zorbing has come to Connecticut. And not a moment too soon: according to Wikipedia, the word “zorbing” — “a sport in which a participant is secured inside an inner capsule in a large, transparent ball which is then rolled along the ground or down hills” — made the Oxford English Dictionary 10 years ago, so we're way behind the curve.
So where does one go “sphere-ing?” At the Woodbury Ski Area, which brought what it calls the “Sorba-ball” to the state on June 1, taking advantage of the runs already created for its winter tubing park. With some under-10 relatives, Milo and Saskia, coming to visit from New York City for the weekend, I couldn't resist printing out, for $25 each, a couple of half-off coupons (through Groupon) for three hours of tubing... and one Sorba ride.
The tubing, for adults at least, isn't too exciting — you choose between only two slopes, there's no water involved, and even on the steeper slope the thrill is pretty much gone after the first drop. (The kids, I should note, were often terrified, and therefore had a great time.) But the Sorba-ball is another story, mostly because it's disorienting. You're completely strapped in for your 40-second roll down the hill — torso, shoulders, thighs, ankles — so you feel you're about to embark on either 1) an updated form of medieval torture, or 2) a new episode of “Jackass.”
Although another name for the sport is “hamster-balling,” in Woodbury that's a misnomer: the ball is an air-cushioned ball-within-a-ball, and made of soft plastic rather than hard... but more significantly, you have no control over the speed or direction of your roll.
Which is, of course, half the fun — being suspended upside-down on the roof of the ball, bracing yourself for an unknown degree of ground contact on the way down, bouncing in unexpected directions at unexpected times, and losing all sense of direction because you can never get a “fix” on outside landmarks.
My son Matthew, with whom I shared the Sorba-ball ride, noted the experience was less exciting than jumping off the Bridgewater bridge... and not so wet, though we did sweat like pigs because the heat build-up inside the ball was substantial.
What you think about as the ride concludes, all too quickly, is the possibilities. Taking an orb out on a lake — the games you could create, ball-on-ball! Or on a big river — imagine going over a waterfall! And In the ocean, would you get slapped around by the waves, or just ride over them? It could be fun on flat land, too, judging from this cell-service advertisement — Australian, of course, they're big on wacky stuff Down Under.
Indeed, the red-hot center for zorbing seems to be New Zealand: the Zorb company is based in Auckland... and quite proprietary, devoting an entire website to possibly dangerous Zorb knock-offs (mostly from India and China).
The good news? The sport has a long way to go: according to Wikipedia, citing the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest sphereing ride is 1,870.1 feet, and the highest sphereing speed 32.3 miles per hour (I assume these are "downhill" records). Hey, I know some recent Brookfield High graduates who'd be happy to challenge those marks (you know who you are)...