Going for a spin - real Kiwi adventures

Kiwi sense of adventure and innovative thinking is behind some unique New Zealand-designed adventure tourist attractions.

Blokart, Zorb and Shweeb are three examples of modern Kiwi inventions that have put a new spin of ‘going for a spin’ on New Zealand’s great outdoors.

Much earlier - and in a different league - the ski plane and Hamilton jet boat were Kiwi inventions that pushed the boundaries of adventure tourism.

Blokart - three-wheel sailing

Blokart - dubbed the world’s "ultimate sailing experience" - is a wind-powered New Zealand speed machine that’s been seen round the world on Emmy Award-winning American reality show The Amazing Race.

Created, designed and manufactured in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty region, the blokart is a three-wheeled land yacht invented by Mount Maunganui man Paul Beckett.

Beckett wanted to build a wind-powered toy that was portable and easy to use for people of all ages and abilities. His blokart can be folded down into a lightweight, suitcase-sized bag that’s easily transported - almost anywhere from beaches to parking lots, sport grounds and even on ice.

Racing is popular down under and overseas. The 90-Mile Beach Blast is held on New Zealand’s most northern stretch of coastline. International events include the Australian Open, US Ivanpah Blokart Open and Rally, and the Ice Blokart World Championships in Lithuania.

Several New Zealand locations offer blokarting activities - including Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s west coast, and the world’s only custom-made blokart speedway at Papamoa, near Tauranga.

Zorb - downhill thrills

An attempt to walk on water inspired Kiwi brothers David and Andrew Akers, along with scientist Dwayne van der Sluis, to create the Zorb - a giant ball that spins down hills at up to 50kph.

Thrill seekers are strapped into the hollow plastic ball - surrounded by a thick air cushion - then sent off on a crazy downhill spin.

Celebrity adventurer Jack Osbourne tried out the Zorb in his television series Adrenaline Junkie, and Zorb franchises flourish internationally in Slovenia, Ireland, Guam, Thailand, Czech Republic and Argentina.

Zorb was invented in Rotorua, and adventure seekers can try it out at the renowned Agrodome.

Shweeb - human-powered monorail

The world’s first human-powered monorail race track - the Shweeb velodrome - opened at the Rotorua Agrodome in 2007.

The Shweeb consists of a 200m overhead rail track circuit with a series of fully-enclosed pods that hang below the track.

Each pod carries one rider - seated in a recumbent position, and pods can be linked for racing. Up to five vehicles can be loaded onto each track so that riders can race one-on-one, or in teams over a 1000m sprint or 10km endurance course.

On the curves, the vehicles swing centrifugally to more than 60 degrees away from vertical. Single riders can reach speeds of 60kph, and multi-rider teams can exceed 70kph.

But the Shweeb is more than a tourist activity as the Rotorua track is also the prototype for a form of mass transport that is being marketed internationally as an environmentally-friendly solution for short-distance urban journeys.