Great Balls of Plastic

Are you crazy enough to strap yourself into a plastic ball and roll down a hill? Zorb Ltd. is betting you are.

By Emily Huo, Business 2.0 Magazine intern

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- New Zealand gave the world bungee jumping, which turned its inventor into a multimillionaire. Now the Kiwis have created another bizarre but lucrative pastime: zorbing. Participants, called zorbonauts, roll down hills at speeds of up to 25 mph while strapped inside large transparent balls.

The first U.S. zorbing site is set to open this month in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., a Knoxville-area resort town that brought in more than $750 million from tourists last year. For about $30, Zorb Smoky Mountains visitors will enjoy maximum G-force while tumbling head over heels for a mere 30 seconds. The more adventurous can try hydro-zorbing, in which the rider wears no harness but is cushioned by 4 gallons of water.

Parent company Zorb Ltd. won't reveal exactly how much it makes but says revenue has grown 30 percent annually for the past five years.

The company has eight sites worldwide and aims to franchise up to 10 more in the United States. (Next up: Zorb Las Vegas.) Toyota (Charts) and DreamWorks (Charts) have featured zorbing in promotional events.

"Zorbing will be bigger than bungee jumping," says Courtney Skinn, marketing manager at Zorb USA. "Factors like age won't eliminate people from trying it out."  Top of page

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