Water balling on Lake Biwa
Posted by ampontan on Monday, June 1, 2009
ON SATURDAY we saw how the folks in Mima are having big fun by curling on a gymnasium floor with kettles, but this one looks even better: water balling on Lake Biwa.
Thanks to an Italian company that is marketing a clear PVC water ball invented by Charles Jones in 1998, intrepid environmentalists, devotees of water sports, and people on the lookout for a good time can climb into the ball and roll out into the middle of the lake. Walking on water isn’t just a Bible story anymore.
The O’Pal Optics sports club in Otsu, Shiga, and the Nippon Water Walk Association have teamed up to popularize water ball use, and one of their approaches is to pitch the ball to environmental researchers. The idea is to roll out to positions on the lake they couldn’t otherwise see from shore, observe the cleanliness level of the water, and take photos from inside. The lower part of the ball also creates the same effect as a glass-bottomed boat, so waterballers can see what’s going on under the lake’s surface.
The water ball is 2.5 meters in diameter and 0.5 millimeters thick. Riders climb in through a hatchway with a fastener attached, and then use an air blower to inflate it. It has the capacity for two riders–standing room only–so you can double your waterballing fun by going for a roll with a friend. There was no mention of how long riders can stay inside before the air starts to go stale.
The people who’ve tried it say it’s just like a water bed, and no, I didn’t realize any of those were still around either. It floats gently and easily over the small waves on the lake surface, and they claim the experience transports you to another world.
Exhibiting an attitude of proper scientific detachment, the chair of the association said he hopes the ball will help foster an awareness of environmental issues and contribute to interest in Lake Biwa. But after taking a look at the association’s Japanese language website, they’re certainly aware of their new toy’s fun potential, too.
For example, here’s a video of water ball races in the inaugural competition at Lake Biwa last year. The guy in the first pair of racers who had such a hard time standing up said he had never been inside one before.
The second competition is scheduled for 30 August this year. How much longer can it be before someone comes up with an extreme sport or x-rated websites featuring water ball use?
If you’re near Lake Biwa and want to try balling on the water, give O’Pal Optics a call at their toll-free number: 0120-176-668. If you live in other parts of the country, take a look at the Water Walk Association website to see if an event is coming to a swimming pool near you soon.
And if you’re interested in buying one, you can put the search terms “water ball” and Italy into the English-language Google site and plenty of merchants will pop up!