Last week, a tragic accident took place at a ski resort in Russia. Two guys strapped themselves into a zorb - a kind of wild, plastic ball ride - rolled down a hill, breached the track, and promptly rolled off a mountain. Flung from the ball, one guy was killed, the other seriously injured. The Youtube video is a terrifying, as we see the fun bounce out of control. Was it an accident, or negligence? By all accounts, the latter. I've zorbed several times in New Zealand, where it is offered with other fun, locally-invented sports like the Luge, Swoop, Shweeb and Agrojet.
You sign your customary waiver, choose a dry zorb (pictured above) or a wet zorb, if you'd prefer to be tossed around like a sock in a washing machine. Both made me ill, but then these things usually do. In Russia, the operators clearly had no idea what they were doing (this was their first Zorb run) violated just about safety measure they could, and promptly hightailed it when the police came calling. So what can we learn from all this?
Zorbing with Agrodome Adventures in Rotorua, New Zealand
You'd think a heavy bouncy zorb would protect you from just about anything, but that's clearly not the case. You would also think that the Russian guys stepping into the zorb at the top of a mountain would consider the possibilities, which is drastically different from the zorb experience above in Rotorua, New Zealand. Here, the ball rolls down a short hill, hits a ramp, and stops on its own accord. Kiwis have perfected this kind of thing. Russians, not so much. Our two Russian friends could have saved themselves by asking some basic questions before their ill-fated ride:
- Did the operator have a safety record? (No)
- Did the operator follow course safety guidelines? (No)
- Did they know they were guinea pigs in a wheel? (No)
Therein lies that common sense we hear so much about when travelling, and yet need reminding of every once in a while. Accidents are accidents, but stupidity is dumb.
Zorbs, in the proper environment, are harmless fun. Odd, yes, dangerous no. A few weeks ago I did the public skeleton ride on the world's fastest bobsleigh track in Whistler. 100km/hr face first, inches above the ice. Harrowing stuff, but everyone emerged (mostly) unscathed. It is a tightly controlled, regulated and monitored thrill ride.
The next day I caught an edge on my snowboard, banged my neck on an icy traverse, and 6 weeks later am still paying for it with a pinched nerve. My legs were tired, it was the last run of the day, I should have taken it easy. There's no blaming the mountain, only myself. Likewise, there's no blaming the zorb. Just people who make stupid, deadly decisions.
The Wet Zorb, Rotorua
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.