OGO Rotorua – the story behind the ball
Ever wondered how the team at OGO Rotorua came up with the idea to get big inflatable balls and roll them down a hill with people inside? Well, we did! To get some answers we caught up with Andrew Akers, the inventor of inflatable ball rolling and the owner of OGO. He even gave us some insider information about the future plans for OGO!
So what exactly is OGO ball rolling?
OGO ball rolling is essentially a large inflatable plastic ball that rolls down a hill. There is one large ball and then another small one inside of it where you sit when you roll down the hill. Some of the OGO balls have water in them and some are without.
Photo: An OGO ball rolling down the side winder track.
What sparked the idea of rolling around in an inflatable ball?
My friend, Dwayne and I (Andrew Akers) were walking along the beach one day and we were trying to think of some funky ideas. We initially came up with the idea of walking on water by creating shoes that could float. That idea quickly vanished as it wouldn’t be so practical if we fell over because the shoes would float but we would sink!
Then we came up with the idea of the ball. You couldn’t fall into the water as you would be in the center of the skin. You could just jump in and out of the ball, take it into the water and still ride the waves. However, it also meant we had no control of where the ball could float to, we didn’t want to end up on the other side of the world! That is when we came up with the concept of using that same ball but rolling down a hill on land instead.
Where and how are the OGO balls made?
We have a big area on the OGO site where we can experiment. There is a development team of two people that spend 80-90 hours each creating an OGO ball. The time is spent gluing, heat welding and cutting 5-6 different types of high quality plastics. The plastics all have specifically designed properties that stop the ball from tearing, ripping and getting scratched.
Once the balls have been created, the little one is put inside of the big one and at the end of the process the ball is inflated. We just hope for the best when we inflate it, because that will tell us if we have welded and glued everything correctly.
Photo: Rotorua Canopy Tours guides, Spencer and Jesse enjoying their wet OGO ride.
What is your new OGO dry ride?
We used to have a dry-GO harness ride but it was quite difficult to operate and people weren’t as interested being strapped in. The new dry ride is like the water ride but you don’t get wet. It is an OGO within an OGO, the inner OGO ball rolls around in the water and you sit inside.
What is better the wet or dry ride?
We developed the dry ride more so for the miserable, cold months. A lot of people were not so keen on trying out OGO because they didn’t want to get wet in the middle of winter. We still think the water ride is a lot more fun and exciting but if you are not too keen on getting wet, especially when it’s cold then the dry ride is perfect for you.
Photo: The Rotorua Canopy Tours team after racing each other in the OGO balls.
Why did you choose Rotorua to set up OGO?
I grew up in Rotorua so I am familiar with the area. It was between either Queenstown or Rotorua. It was going to be easier to do OGO Rotorua because it has better weather all year round.
Watch this space though as we are looking at potential opportunities in Queenstown!
Anything new at the OGO Rotorua site?
We have recently been making modifications to keep our customers comfortable, especially leading into the cooler winter months. We have added in another hot tub, so we now have one at the top and two at the bottom of the hill to keep warm before and after the ride. We have also added in a warm room at top of the hill so our customers can wait in there for their turn in an OGO. We are working on adding some more tracks on site before summer. We are also considering expanding into a range of activities not just ball rolling. Make sure you keep an ear out for the next couple of years as some exciting things are going to happen!