January 14, 2016
Admit it. At some point in your life you’ve seen a hamster, mouse, or other similar tiny creature rolling around in a little plastic ball and you’ve considered, if only for a moment, what it would be like to kick it or, maybe, roll it down the stairs. Depending on your strength of character, you may have even sent the poor creature on such a terrifying journey. Well, now it’s your turn. Except this time, it’s completely voluntary – there’s a form for that.
Zorbing is defined as “a sport in which a participant is secured inside an inner capsule in a large, transparent ball that is then rolled along the ground or down hills.” Whether this should be considered a “sport” or not is highly questionable, but it is certainly something very different from what you’ve most likely experienced before. Very few places in the US offer it and this location was originally, I believe, the first when it opened (though at the time under a different name and management).
Located just off the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, Outdoor Gravity Park offers a few different options. The signature experience is the OGO (Outdoor Gravity Orb). The OGO is made of two large plastic balls with one inside the other. The inner ball is filled with water, up to three riders climb inside, and the ball is let loose to roll down the hill – either on a straight course (of which they have two if you wish to race) or a zig-zag course for some extra bounciness. The water inside allows riders to slosh and slide around as it rolls instead of going head over heels, as if being trapped inside a Slip-N-Slide.
If you prefer to stay dry, they have the DryGo. Instead of pumping the water into the inner ball, it is pumped into a layer between two balls to allow an inner ball to roll freely so the rider inside stays dry but is still free to move around as they are sent bounding down the hill.
Finally, if rolling freely is a little intimidating, you can try the Fishpipe. The Fishpipe is similar to the OGO except it is mounted on a steel frame and spun by an electric motor at up to 45 rotations per minute. Described as the “longest water slide” by Outdoor Gravity Park, it simulates the OGO experience but without the out-of-control feeling of charging towards the main building at the bottom of the hill.
Guests pay, check in, and sign waivers at the main building. Changing rooms are also available if you wish to change into/out of your bathing suits when taking one of the water-filled rides. During cooler times, only the Drygo is available, as was the case when we visited. After checking in, you are picked up in an SUV behind the building and driven to the top of the hill where the OGOs await. Getting inside is a bit of an ordeal as you must wiggle, writhe, and squeeze yourself through the small opening into the inner sphere. Afterwards, the opening is sealed so there’s no chance of falling out while en route.
Your giant hamster ball is held at the top by a standard livestock gate. Once it is released, you are on your way with nowhere to roll but down. It is difficult to describe the sensation of being inside a huge rolling ball with no control whatsoever over direction, speed, or when and where to stop. The entire course looks short from the outside, but inside it is nearly impossible to tell how far you have gone. Soon, the excitement of the ride overtakes the uncertainty that the small teenager at the bottom will be able to stop the 11-foot sphere hurtling towards him.
Near the bottom of the hill is a series of grates that, I can only assume, are designed to slow the OGO in some way just before the end so that that same teenager can and does bring it safely to a stop. Now comes the real challenge – birthing yourself from within the OGO. Going in headfirst is slightly challenging, but coming out feet first (so that you don’t drop to the ground on your head) is more of a struggle and to any observers on the patio above hearkens back to a particularly infamous scene from Ace Ventura.
A GoPro is provided for each roll and you can purchase the video of your ride on a custom thumb drive and multiple videos are offered at a large discount if you have multiple rolls or people in your group.
Regardless of the difficulties in getting into and out of the OGO, the experience is well worth the trouble. Outdoor Gravity Park describes it as “hilarious, mysterious and variously delerious,” which seems as good an explanation as any. It is a unique sensation unlike any experience found in traditional theme and amusement parks and worth going out of your way to try if only to get a sense of what you did that one time to the poor unwilling hamster.
For more information on OGO, DryGo, Fishpipe and Outdoor Gravity Park, you can visit their website at outdoorgravitypark.com.
And check out our YouTube video of the DryGo experience…
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