Zorbing… It’s a great word isn’t it? It certainly captured my imagination when I first heard of it about 3 or 4 years ago. A friend of mine had booked for her husband to do it, and I had also seen it on a number of experience sites. It just looked like so much fun! For those of you who might not have heard of it, or don’t know what it is. two people get into a giant inflatable ball, and you are harnessed in facing one another. One you are safely strapped in, the ball is pushed down a hill and you roll down at speed tumbling over one another! I looked into it back at the time I first heard of it, but was put off by the price, which at the time was, I think, somewhere in the region of £100-£150 for 2 people. I even booked one for my brother and sister-in-law as a wedding gift just over a year ago. Though they never managed to get around to using the voucher before it expired. It used to cost a lot more money… Then, when I started writing this blog, a little over a month ago, I looked at costs again and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the cost is actually now only £25 per person (£50 for the two of you). I asked my friend at work if she would join me in doing it, and she agreed, but then she ended up with a neck injury before we were due to do it, and had to back out under doctor’s orders.
No problem I thought, I’ll ask one of my other friends… Therein was a slight problem. I honestly believed that most people would fancy trying this experience, but hardly anybody would even consider doing it with me-most thought I was bordering on insane and all of those who would; had done it already or had no couldn’t afford to do it. I was starting to think I would never get to do it, but then I remembered that my friend Liz is big on living life to the full and a bit of a crazy chick too, so I asked her on the Wednesday night if she would consider doing it with me, since I already had the ticket?
She agreed and we confirmed her details ready for the Friday 2 days later! I booked with a company called Orb 360 who operate out of Devils Dyke which is claimed to be the longest Zorbing/Orbing/Sphereing run in the UK at present. It is located in the south downs near Brighton, and is a well known spot for gliding, paragliding, hiking, mountain biking, mountain boarding and Zorbing/Sphering.
Their website says:
Ours is the longest in the country at half a mile long! A great setting for a once in a lifetime experience – spinning head over heels with a friend at speeds of 30mph you turn and tumble, scream, shout and laugh out loud
…Our venue is the largest of any orbing, zorbing and definitely sphereing parks in the country. We have the longest orb run and having visited every site in the country honestly believe ours to be the best by far.
For the water lovers we have our great Aqua-Orbs, you and friend join 50litres of splashing water and roll down the Aqua-slide…getting the idea?? This is the nearest you will get to being in a human sized washing machine – first class fun.
Unfortunately, it rained heavily that morning, so the company sent us both texts and emails to cancel the booking. Although we were gutted, I was impressed with the efficiency of their communications. It was vastly better than my experience of having my tandem sky dive cancelled due to weather. At least we had not had to waste a journey to Brighton first to learn of our disappointment! … We booked for the following Sunday, but alas, that day it was too windy, and the Zorbing company rang us to ask us if we could come any earlier, or else re-book. We re-booked for the Friday just gone, and were blessed with stunning weather! Hurrah!
We arrived at the office by the Pub at the Top of Devil’s Dyke and parked up, we filled out a brief health questionnaire (although this is not a dangerous activity, and if you are normally able to ride roller-coasters, then there is no reason why you cannot Zorb according to the staff there). We then collected our voucher and walked down to the actual Zorbing run (about 5-10 minutes walk). I must admit, looking down the steep drop from Devil’s Dyke was daunting, but I was almost disappointed when I saw the actual run, it was actually quite a gentle slope! Also, although the office is at the Top of Devil’s Dyke next to the pub, the Zorb run is actually a good 5-10 minute walk away, and it seems almost misleading to say that the run itself is ‘in’ Devil’s Dyke, rather just off to the side of it.
We were asked to take our shoes off, and get in. Well, I say ‘get in’ … I was in fact told that I needed to do a ‘superman dive’ into the little hole. This was easier said than done, since the hole is not terribly large, and it’s not terribly low either. I now understand the following restriction from their website:
Now we know God makes us in all shapes and sizes and that’s all good but unfortunately the God of Orb only makes one size and you will need to be within the weight limit of 15.5 stones – no porky pies as we have scales….
I couldn’t help visualising larger people waddling around with the zorb stuck on their hips and waddling around looking like a zorb with legs! It made me think of the story from Winnie-the-Pooh where Pooh Bear’s bottom is too big to squeeze out of the rabbit’s burrow hole after eating too much honey for tea and ends up having his bottom used to hang pictures from until he slimmed back down again…
Then it was Liz’s turn. I love the picture of her as she was anticipating her entrance, her expression was priceless! She made it in on her first attempt, but I like to think this was because she had learned from my mistake! Haha! We had opted for Liz to go backwards and me to face forwards. Initially, this might seem like Liz drew the short straw, but we had asked first which was the more ‘extreme’ experience, and they were quite clear that facing backwards was the easy option, and that going forwards was more extreme. Initially this didn’t seem logical, but I can only assume that it’s because you are already rolling forwards down a hill and thus if you face forwards, you have the illusion of going faster, whereas going backwards in essence works against the forward roll?
It was incredibly hot and stuffy in the little ball. I guess it’s a greenhouse effect, so it’s a good job that we didn’t need to be in for long. The harness was also not terribly comfortable, and I recommend wearing some kind of sports bra, or something to reduce the strange shape it contorts the female shape into (enough said). I wished that I had bought one of the high necked Orb 360 tee-shirts at that moment, as I was slightly concerned that our helmet cam video could have become X-rated . Thankfully, this wasn’t the case, as I pulled my top up at the front and down at the back to compensate.
I was actually surprised that neither of us felt even slightly queasy afterwards. Rolling down at 30 miles an hour, I did anticipate maybe a little nausea, but we were pleasantly surprised, and the staff said it’s rare that people experience nausea. Generally if they do, it tends to be afterwards briefly. If you haven’t already watched the video of our experience (at the top of this post). Please bear with it, First you’ll see it from a spectator’s view and then you will see it from the ‘Zorbernaught’s eye view’ (from Liz’s helmet camera-from about 2:30 onwards). It still makes me laugh out loud watching it!
Extreme Experience Rating 7/10
This was fun, and as you can see from the video, we laughed like hyenas! The reason this isn’t a 10, is that this actually wasn’t as extreme as I had imagined. I would certainly recommend it, and I am very glad I did it and that I’ve ticked it off my list!
I wish with hindsight, that the Orb 360 staff had asked me to tuck in the loose straps after tightening my harness, since they kept hitting me in the face when I was upside down in the roll, and I wish the staff had used a bit more common sense and not stopped and stood right in front of my friends and family and obscuring the view as they were filming my experience… Since it doesn’t last very long any way, this is a simple ask, and to be honest, it’s common sense really. I did also have a bad experience with one member of the staff in the office who was extremely and unnecessarily rude to me on the phone when I had a query afterwards (I had not received my video within the time frame they promised and I was making enquiries about Aqua Orbing at the same time)… When I explained to the man (Paul Butler), that I found his tone to be unnecessary, he actually became very aggressive and agitated and in the end I felt I had to hang up rather than continue to listen to his aggressive, rude tone. Also, since he is the ‘MD’ it seems pointless trying to complain.
This is a crying shame, because I do intend to try Aqua Orbing at some point and also paragliding too, and now, having been spoken to this way-there is no way I would ever book with them again. It seems I am not the only one who feels this way (4 out of 5 reviews on this site are all warning people about their hideous customer service and this site displays 4 out 7 reviews as being poor customer service too… Pretty poor show, considering what they’re selling is meant to be FUN). My feeling re Orb 360 is DONT BOOK WITH THEM. I just spoke with another red letter type experience provider to check that the service they offer is NOT with Orb 360, and they have assured me they will not use them either. They used to offer experiences with Orb 360, but their own customers had some awful experiences with turning up to find the site closed, etc.
On that note, it is worth mentioning, that being near to the coast, and also so high, Devil’s Dyke is particularly prone to high winds (hence gliders and paragliders are consistently there). This does mean that there is a higher chance of your experience being cancelled due to weather. The experience day provider I just spoke to regarding zorbing did say that they seem to get far fewer cancellations with their new zorbing company in Surrey (which is probably nearer to me).
Aside from the Orb 360’s crappy attitude to customers however; I would highly recommend a visit to Devil’s Dyke. I cannot tell you how the Zorbing run compares with other zorbing sites, as I have nothing to compare it with (yet), they currently claim to have the longest run in the UK, but to be honest, both Liz and I felt it would have been more fun if it were a slightly shorter run any way, as the novelty did wear off when it slowed down on the gentle slope and we almost started having a slightly bored conversation to the effect of ‘I wonder when this will ever end’?
The location is undeniably stunning, and there are some fantastic walks around, and The Devil’s Dyke Pub at the top, by the car park serves nice food and offers spectacular views over the South Downs, out to sea in the distance, paragliders taking flight off the hill and microlights and gliders (and even model gliders) flying in the area.
There is also usually an ice cream van parked in the car park near the orbing office, so if you are hot and sweaty after zorbing, you can cool off with a nice ice cream whilst you watch the goings on.
I actually really want to do Aqua Orbing (also called Hydra Zorbing) now too! Not to be confused with the little balls you see floating around on paddling pools with toddler’s inside at shopping centres. Aqua Zorbing involves up to three of you sloshing around unharnessed in 40 gallons of water as you roll down the side of a hill in your zorb! Apparently there are no height restrictions for this either (since there is no harness) so younger ones over the age of 7 can participate in this fun activity too if they aren’t tall enough for a regular zorb harness.
FYI This video is of Aqua Zorbing:
- Wear Shorts rather than jeans, as it gets very hot in the Zorb
- Wear a high necked tee-shirt (especially women) as it could get embarrassing otherwise
- I recommend ordering the head cam, and also taking someone to film you rolling down the hill from the top. Helmet cameras were only £12 for 2 or £7.50 for one with the company we booked with.
- If you have long hair-tie it back (pretty obvious really)
- If you want a more extreme experience-face forward
- If you want a more sedate experience-face backwards
- If you have loose straps after tightening your harness, tuck them in, mine kept hitting me in the face on my way down.
- Height restriction – Minimum height is 5ft 2in – they haven’t had anyone too tall yet but if you are 7ft their website says “please let us know you are coming as you can also help change the light bulbs!”
- Weight Restriction – 15.5 stones