A CORK man has been immortalised by being included in the Guinness World Records 2021 for zorbing 100 metres in the fastest time.
James Duggan, owner of Funmanway Adventure Land, broke cricket star Freddie Flintoff’s record last year, and is delighted to have been included in the legendary publication during what he says is an otherwise difficult time.
Zorbing, also known as orbing or sphereing, is the technique used to describe hurtling down a hill in a human size hamster sphere called a zorb.
Duggan, 38, who lives near Dunmanway, says: “Not everyone who breaks a record is included in the book. Guinness told me it’s only about one in seven so it is brilliant to be included. I still remember getting the book in my house at Christmas when I was younger.”
Zorbing was invented in the mid-1990s in New Zealand and involves a person being harnessed inside a large transparent ball which is then rolled down a hill.
Duggan shaved more than three-seconds off Flintoff’s record of zorbing 26.59 seconds in 100 metres. The cricketer turned TV personality had held the record since 2012.
James broke the record in September, 2019, and was informed he had made the 2021 Guinness Book of Records in July this year.
He says: “Freddie Flintoff is a big deal. I know him more from presenting Top Gear rather than playing cricket. When I broke his record a few of the lads said we should call him out on Twitter to see if we can get him to try and beat it again.
“The plan now is to call him out on Christmas Day. See if we can get him over to Cork!”
James adds: “I first came across zorbing in New Zealand in 2007. I came home for my brother’s wedding and was looking for something to do so had a look to see if I could do it here.
“There was a place in Derry doing it at the time but it didn’t end up happening. I had a bit of land in Dunmanway so I went away and bought a really cheap zorb and played around with that.
“I am a stonemason by trade. When I moved home to Ireland there wasn’t much work like that going, so in 2011 I decided to open Funmanway Adventure Land.
“There weren’t many places to do sports or activities like that at the time. Funmanway does zorbing, paintballing, kayaking and mountain boarding.”
Despite a successful few years, Duggan says the business has been hit doubly hard by rising insurance premiums and the pandemic.
He added: “It was great up until this year really.We had a lot of hen parties, stags, birthdays and school trips. It’s all outdoors.
“People are generally celebrating something when they come to us so it’s always a good time, but this year has been incredibly hard.
“When I opened up first in 2011 my insurance was €1,800. Then I started adding activities. Suddenly we were paying €4,000 and €5,000.
“After Brexit, it went to €9,000. Then the company that insured us, Lloyds of London, pulled out of the market. They said that for every €100 they took in for an outdoor activity centre in Ireland, they would pay out €120. It wasn’t sustainable.
“I’ve learned the hard way that having people sign waivers doesn’t stop them trying to sue you. I’ve also learned about ‘nuisance pay’. That’s where the insurance company pays a settlement to someone because going to court would cost them more.”
Duggan says business owners like him are in a particularly vulnerable position.
“I am looking at €14,500 for insurance next year. We are extremely safe and have never had an incident but I plan on reducing the activities we offer so that that figure goes down. I can’t justify paying it.
“A friend of mine owns a similar business and she pays €20,000. You just pay it or you fold.
“When you are after investing so much time and effort into something, you kind of don’t know when to stop. Sometimes you have to call it.
“It’s a shame because there is a massive industry here and it’s all outdoors. It’s all good, clean fun.”
The adventure centre has been closed since March because of the coronavirus restrictions, except for a few weeks over the summer.
Duggan says: “We plan to re-open in March, please god. It’s been hard but it’s been hard for a lot of people. The lockdown was a novelty at first but I miss the customers, talking and interacting with them.
“My wife Laura is fantastic. She works for Dell from home at the moment but when we are open she helps at the weekends and does the booking. Our son Killian is going on four next March. I already have him into the zorbing!”
Duggan says: “Breaking the Guinness World Record was an amazing experience. There is a list of conditions that you have to abide by for the record. The course has to be mapped out in detail beforehand to ensure it meets the criteria for the record attempt.
“The terrain isn’t allowed to drop more than 10 inches over the 100 metre duration and, even on the day, if the winds were an extra seven kilometres an hour we wouldn’t have been able to do it. But we did it and it was great.”