The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Money

August 5, 2012

Orb-iting the Gorge

Roll on over to Lansing if you’re looking around for a new thrill

Adrenaline junkies, prepare yourselves for the newest thrill in town — Orb the Gorge.

Thrill seekers will climb into what looks like a cross between a giant hamster ball and something from outer space as they prepare to roll and bounce down a sloped hill, laughing and screaming along the way.

The experience is certainly like no other and two different types of rides can be chosen.

The first is the Orb Ball, in which the rider will be strapped into a specially designed harness, rolling, twisting and tumbling head over heels down the slope.

The second adrenaline-filled ride is called the H2Orb. This style involves no harness, just five gallons of water that will send riders slipping, sliding and spinning.

Only one rider at a time can go on the Orb Ball, but up to three riders can experience the H2Orb at once.

For the more hardcore thrill seekers, owner Cameron Kania says the Orb Ball is the way to go.

Kania is originally from Virginia Beach, but his dad grew up in Fayette County. Kania got his degree in finance from West Virginia University and decided to put together this business after trying the orb experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., while on vacation with his family.

“When I learned more about it, I thought it would be a perfect fit with the adventure activities,” Kania said. “I thought it would be something really cool to bring to the area.”

He said the idea initially started in New Zealand and is known there as “zorbing.” There are only a handful of Orb sites in the country and local residents are lucky enough to have the experience in their own backyard.

Orb the Gorge has been open since Memorial Day, Kania said, and they have been rolling the Orbs down the hill nonstop.

He and his brother, B.J., are the owners of Orb the Gorge, and Cameron said it’s been great getting to spend so much time with his brother, who has Down syndrome.

Business has been steadily increasing each week, as many whitewater rafters have decided to come check out Orb the Gorge while they are in town.

Three young men emerged from the H2Orb, drenched with water, but smiling from ear to ear.

Austin Funkhouser, Justin Houl and Ryan Houl are from Maryland, but their families decided to vacation in West Virginia this summer.

They all said the experience was awesome as they lined up for another ride.

Justin and Ryan’s mom, Adriana, was the first of their group to brave the Orb Ball.

Adriana said it was a blast and she wouldn’t dare shut her eyes because she didn’t want to miss a second of the experience.

Originally, their family had planned to go to New York for their summer vacation, but Adriana said she was extremely pleased they opted for West Virginia instead.

“I didn’t realize how beautiful West Virginia was. There are so many exciting things to do around here and everyone has been so friendly. The customer service has been excellent and everyone has really gone the extra mile.”

Her daughters, Kelly and Sidney, also took a ride on the H2Orb wearing black bikinis, while their aunt yelled, “Hang on to your tops!” right before they rolled down the hill.

Even the employees at Orb the Gorge love being a part of the experience.

Austin Nolen, of Fayetteville, has been working there all summer and says he loves it.

He helps riders climb into and out of the Orbs and also helps load the Orbs on a trailer to haul them up and down the hill.

“It’s definitely better than sitting in an office all day,” Nolen said. He laughed and added, “It might not be cooler, but it’s a lot more fun.”

So far, business has stemmed from word of mouth. Adventures on the Gorge also lets guests know about this thrilling experience and Kania said he hopes to try and get involved with other adventure companies as well.

Kania said next season he anticipates some changes — adding more Orbs, creating a conveyor belt to transport riders up the hill, and changing the pricing to be more accommodating for customers.

Current prices are $25 for a single ride, three rides for $55 and each additional ride after three is $15. Discounted group rates are available.

The owners ask that riders be at least 8 years old. Single riders can weigh a maximum of 280 pounds. and up to three riders can weigh a maximum of 550 pounds.

If the H20rb sounds like the right ride for you, make sure to bring swim wear or a change of clothes and a towel. Riders are asked to not wear sharp objects, such as jewelry or clothing that contains exposed zippers.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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