Disclaimer addendum : Most of the world’s press have simply shared the same orginal brief report of this tragic and avoidable incident, a widely circulated report  which used the word “zorbing”  and yet failed to include any reference to the New Zealand company who trade under that  name of their invention , the Zorb, or sought to ammend intial reports with the reaction of the brand name owners. By omission of the company’s intial statement , and use of the word zorbing journalists are in danger of wrongfully implicating the New Zealand based company by association. Zorb have  separated themseleves from the illegal operators who owned the copy cat globe riding device in which the Russian father of two was killed , condemning the lack of safety precautions, and  confirming that the use of such a device in those conditions and terrrain was criminally negligent and  not their product.   Follow the link at the bottom of this report to read the company’s full press release which has not been widely publised.

On January 3rd   father of two, Denis Burakov, 27, died , apparently from a broken neck, after the globe ball in which he and a friend were  riding  veered off course and fell into a deep gorge in the North Caucasus, Russia .His friend Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, was badly injured. This is apparently the second recorded globe ball riding    fatality where back  in June 2009 a teacher  died and a pupil was  seriously injured in the Czech Republic while trying the sport . To date   most reports have failed to acknowledge  the Zorb  company’s declaration that the device in which the man died was being used by an illegal operator and not manufactured or supplied by them and have in fact have now called for global regualtion of the activity. They state , having seen the video footage of the accident , that the double harness is unsafe and not a feature of their product.

Reported in more detail than the BBC news website and most other sources ,I first read ,  in the International Business Times  representatives of  the genuine  company  were naturally very distressed by the tragedy but say that it was preventable and are now calling for global standard in safety and insist that the “Zorb”  type was in use by an illegal operator with whom Zorb has no association.

In that interview  CEO Hope Horrocks said ,“The site, the Dombai resort complex in Russia’s North Caucasus mountain range, was not licensed by Zorb. The equipment was not manufactured by Zorb. The lack of proper “berms” [barriers] to stop globes is absolutely prohibited by Zorb” .

The local Emergencies Ministry said both men in the sphere were ejected as it tumbled   down Mount Mussa-Achitara and landed near a frozen lake.  Horoocks continued by saying that , having seen the video of the accident , “The rocky and snowy conditions were  very dangerous and Zorb does not manufacture double-harness spheres like the one used because of the inherent risks.”

it should be noted that there have been no fatal incidents at any sites franchised and regulated by the Zorb company who take safety very seriously and ensure that their franchisees  do as well. Franchisees sign a code of conduct to ensure operators  act with safety in mind paramount . This the second fatality  where  copy cat devices were involved. Where the sport has now taken on the name of the original invention, it is unfortunate that initial reports may have have given the mistaken impression  that the globe in use was one of those officially licensed and franchised devices supplied by the New Zealand company,  an association by misuse of their name in describing the sport  that damages the company’s reputation and that of legimate operators of the genuine Zorb.

Globe riding   is essentially a pursuit in which a person  is harnessed or unharnessed inside a giant double skinned  see through ball like structure and then  rolls in it down long, usually gradual  slopes for the adrenalin rush hamster style. It is similar in size to the less sophisticated water ball which is a single layer structure.

Terhered Zorbs in use in the closed waters of Salford Quays in a promotion by the Goodyear company.

Tethered Zorbs in use in the closed waters of Salford Quays in a promotion by the Goodyear company.

I have only seen it in use the once , in my own city , when the Goodyear company were using a pair of the devices  for advertising purposes . That was  in the relative safety of one of the huge basins at Salford Quays when I photographed the activity it was used for walking on water hamster style but those Zorbs, the same as the one in this accident, were actually tethered for safety reasons.The first official genuine Zorbing site was established in Rotorua, New Zealand, by the Akers brothers which led to the Zorb company being conceived by Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis . There are a small number of Guiness world records related to genuine Zorbing, most recently the fastest 100m in a Zorb – 26.59 seconds held by Andrew Flintoff who broke the record as part of his attempt to break 12 world records in 12 hours for BBC Sport Relief. Zorbs have been adopted as a symbol of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Single person using a Zorb sphere water walking hamster style

Single person using a Zorb sphere water walking hamster style

Whilst the Russian authorities have this tragic accident under investigation is seems inconceivable to British readers that someone owning and hiring out an  extreme sport device like this in such hazardous terrain  had not checked the surrounding area , done a risk assessment and checked out the possible effects of microclimate where in strong winds for example the globe  could be predictably likely to be blown off course in any direction or been deflected by a rock off course as appears to have happened in this case .

entering the double skinned Zorb air is pumped between the two skins to prot3ect the rider and absorb shock.

entering the double skinned Zorb air is pumped between the two skins to protect the rider and absorb shock.

This New Zealand invention has been around for seventeen years  and the official product  website has a counter which records the number of what it calls “Zorbonauts” and invites those who have experienced its use to share their experiences.  New Zealand is home to a range of so called extreme or adventure sports such as bungee jumping but always  those activities are carefully anmd responsibly  regulated and those running the activities are qualified and experienced and strong on all the safety issues. It appears that the owners of the globe riding ball  in which this unfortunate guy  died have fled the scene which strongly suggests opportunist business  with a  lack of responsibility.

From the company website ZORB.COM it is clear that genuine Zorbs cannot be bought outside of the franchise and outside of  the company’s franchise terms and conditions which in itself is the company’s strategy for ensuring the devices are only in the hands of responsible people.

"Zorbonaut" ready to roll

“Zorbonaut” ready to roll

Zorbing sites first appeared in New Zealand and USA but exist in other countries including the UK where is is available in most regions as a gift ride package.  It was trialled first in New Zealand between 1995 and 1996  and first  trialed on snow between 1999 and 2000.

Zorb Zorbing

 My thanks to Angela  Beswich, a New Zealand journalist for 3news.co.nz who kindly found and shared with me a link to  the Zorb company’s press statement  which was released last night and forwarded to me via her Twitter Angela Beswick . Please read and share the link.


(I have no vested interest in Zorb and this article is written voluntarily out of a sense of  anger at the injustice evuident in what a ppears to the sloppiness of a lot of mainstream reporting in not giving a fuller more balanced version of events. (The supposedly authoratative BBC News website has not updated their orginal version of the incident  they published over 24 hours ago which doesn’t contain any comment from the brand’s owner – I did Tweet them a link to several sources but those were ignored.)

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