Zorbing. Is there any stopping it?

Monday, August 31st, 20092 Comments

What is it about people from New Zealand? First, they come up with bungee-jumping, now they are getting in plastic bubbles and rolling down hills. Different names it may be called – zorbing, sphereing or globe-riding – but the craze of tumbling around in a plastic ball like a hamster, is undoubtedly on a roll.

In July, HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, no less, were treated to a display of zorbing at the launch of ‘YOU London’ – a network of adventure, military and emergency youth organizations, which aims to recruit adult volunteers to enable young people to join and share resources. HRH Prince Charles commented on the benefits of outdoor activities but thought he’d leave zorbing to a different generation.  Oxford band Stornoway recently released a track entitled zorbing written before they actually did it.

And, BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who is more used to kicking balls than rolling in them, joined his wife Danielle Buxand inside a plastic ball for a new BBC TV series of Northern Exposure, where the couple try different adventures around Northern Ireland.  Gary Lineker said: ‘I have found myself doing things I never imagined I would, like rolling down a hill in a giant bubble.’

Although giant hamster balls had been tried before, New Zealanders Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers are generally credited with getting the ball rolling when they invented the ‘Zorb’ in 1994. Zorbing bounced into the Oxford English dictionary in 2001 and those who take part in the activity are often referred to as ‘zorbanauts’.
Zorbing or sphereing, if you prefer, can be done on land or water – as seen in the video. Wet zorbing is as close as most people are likely to get to walking on water. Those that have tried the wet version say it gives you more control, although they liken it to ‘being inside a washing machine’.  Water – often soapy water – is invariably put into the ball to make standing up harder.

In dry zorbing, unlike wet zorbing, you are strapped into the plastic ball and tumble down a hill – believe it or not – those that try it love it.

A US company called Fishpipe is taking the concept one stage further, they describe their tubular barrel ride as a cross between ‘body surfing, washing your clothes, going for a jog and having a shower’. The Fishpipe is an inflatable barrel, shaped like a rugby ball, that is strapped between two large metal wheels on a frame.

New Zealander Steve Camp holds the record for the Greatest Distance Zorbing when he travelled 570m (1,870 ft 0.9in) in a single roll in Paengaroa. The record was previously held by Rich Eley from the UK at 323m.

Another New Zealander, Keith Kolver holds the record for the fastest ride , reaching a top speed of 52 kilometres per hour, set the day after Steve Camp’s record.

Want to try Zorbing? Then click here

Classroom warfare: Paintball University Challenge

Monday, August 31st, 2009No Comments

Only Americans understand the true fervour and passion of US college sport. For the English sports fan, the enemy might be the Germans, the Argentinians, the other home nations, and, of course, the Australians. Definitely, the Australians. Meanwhile, the Scots traditionally support anyone who is playing England. But US sports teams rarely compete in national competitions. Baseball’s World Series justifies its name by extending the boundaries of the US to Canada. Golf’s Ryder Cup is one exception, but the bi-annual coming together of US golfers to play their European counterparts is something US tour professionals occasionally seem as comfortable with as putting downhill at Augusta.
No, for US sports nuts it is college sport that gets the adrenalin gushing and passions rising. So it’s no surprise that the US National Collegiate Paintball Association competition is a blood-boiling hit. It allows competing state university students to stop shouting at each other and start shooting. Just the way they like it.

The competition itself is as old as paintball in the US. Not surprisingly, the first college paintball club was formed at the United States Military Academy in 1986. In  1994, the first intercollegiate tournament was held at Sherwood Forest in La Porte, Indiana. Former Illinois Senator Barack Obama was no doubt pleased that the University of Illinois was crowned the first national winner in 2000.
In fact, it is was a former University of Illinois student Chris Raehl who co-founded the National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA) which now runs the competition. Chris, who began playing paintball with a friend’s church group, set up the NCPA in 2000.
Over the last few years, a growing band of the US’s top universities such as Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania have entered the battle to be the top university. Iowa State University Paintball Club is even funded by the University to construct a permanent on-campus paintball field.
The league has a long and short format, which is described as class A and class AA.  The national championship for class A is decided in a shoot-off between 12 teams in April, while the class AA has over 100 teams competing on a league basis. Topping the table in the short format rakings for 2008/9 are the University of Texas Mean Green – well you’d expect Texans to be sharp shooters.
If you want to try paintball check out your nearest UK paintball venue. Click here

The journey from karting to F1

Monday, August 31st, 20091 Comment

Karting thumbs up British driver Jenson Button currently leads the Formula 1 drivers’  championship, but he says some of his best memories of motor sport are from his time kart racing. Like generations of drivers before him, his journey to pole position began in karts.

Long before the champagne sprayed from the podium, cute-faced kids such as Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher were thrashing the life out of karts and no doubt celebrating victories with a drop of fizzy lemonade.
Lewis Hamilton was just ten when he sped to victory in his first British Karting championship in 1993, a triumph he went on to repeat four times. Seven years later the future F1 world drivers’ champion was crowned world karting number one, after gaining maximum points in the European Karting championship.  It was this success in karts that made Lewis the only teenager ever to be recruited by a F1 team, when McLaren’s Ron Dennis signed him for their driver development programme.

Seven-time F1 world drivers’ champion, the legendary German Michael Schumacher, was five when he first got behind the wheel of a kart. Michael’s father Ralf reportedly took his son along to the local Kerpen-Horrem karting circuit, after crashing his home-modified pedal kart into a lamp post.  Regulations in Germany required drivers to be 14-years-old to get a competitive kart licence. But the resourceful Schumachers swerved around this, by obtaining a licence in Luxembourg in 1981, at the age of 12.

Meander through YouTube for baby-faced clips of future F1 stars and it’s not difficult to see why karting is such a fertile breeding ground for champion speedsters.  It has been described as F1 in miniature and on the cheap. Lewis Hamilton certainly looked a consummate professional racer before he was a teenager. Indeed, when Michael Schumacher made a one-off nostalgic return to karts in 2001, the 16-year-old Hamilton finished in seventh place, four places behind Schumacher, who had no hesitation in picking Hamilton out as a future F1 star.
For young guys who hit the winning trail early, such as Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, success in karts teaches them to be as adept at steering through media interviews as hairpin bends. Press interviews, media interest and seeing your picture in the paper quickly becomes a way of life.
Hamilton advises young kids keen on kart racing to approach it with discipline and not to neglect schoolwork. The Motor Sports Association (MSA), which governs kart racing, restricts competition to aged 8s and above, with over 20 kart classes in the UK for eight to 16-year-olds.

How to start karting.

The Association of British Kart Clubs advises not to go out and buy a kart but to try it first. You can find venues at karting nation.
Most karting venues operate with a minimum height restriction, which is usually around 140cm.
Karts racing classes range from 60cc engines for 8 to 12-year-olds and up to 160cc engines for up to 16-year-olds.
Want to try go karting? To find your nearest circuit click here

New trends in extreme sports

Tuesday, August 4th, 20099 Comments

Not so old rope

Ropeboarding is a new technical board-sport with more risky variations being developed every day. After mirroring every snowboard and skateboard grab in the book, it has moved on to those with a 180 to 540 “shove it” in and out of the grab (either backside or front side), this made it all the more complicated.

The 360-shove-it-Christ-air is one of the most important tricks. This led the way for variations only dreamed of by vert riders and wake boarders alike. This trick is landed by throwing a 360 shove-it from the feet to either hand while extending torso and legs in “the shape of a crucifix”. Then bringing the board back to your feet before your swing is grounded. There are two main stances. Regular and switch reverse. Regular is with both feet on the board with the rope in-between your legs. Switch reverse is with you lead foot on the other side of the rope.

Taking the slack

The sport of slackline was developed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in Yosemite National Park in California; climbers used rest days to walk first on chains, and later on nylon webbing to create a new genre of funambulism – slackline was born.

Both extreme sports will be at the White Air Brighton, Europe’s largest Extreme Sports festival and is on in Brighton from September 18th to 20th. For more details: https://www.whiteair.co.uk/tv