Te Rapa Waterworld's water walking balls a hit

Hamilton City Councillors have endorsed a plan to let under five-year-olds to swim free at council pools.
Hamilton City Councillors have endorsed a plan to let under five-year-olds to swim free at council pools.

Working up a sweat at a swimming pool sounds illogical but that's what happened to Libby Wilson.

I was hoping I'd be able to tell people I walked on water but it didn't quite work out that way.

The folks at Waterworld invited one of the reporters to try out their newest attraction - giant water walking balls - and I put my hand up.

It was a hot day, after all, when most people in a stuffy office were dreaming of soaking in water. Why not head to the pools?

Plenty of other people had the same idea, and not just yesterday. Last month 51,576 users visited Waterworld and the Gallagher Aquatic Centre.

Yesterday afternoon there was a queue of kids around the giant ball area, waiting their turn to hop inside a reinforced plastic ball and roll their way around a small track.

The balls arrived mid-December, purchased by the pools as part of a plan to inject "extra fun", council swimming and recreation manager Mathew Bayliss said.

They attracted queues of about 50 people for the first couple of days, and about 400 people have tried them out so far.

One was Aavia Pepperell, 9, who did it because: "I hadn't been in a bubble-like ball before".

It was a bit freaky at first, but she got used to it and set off around the track.

By the time she got out, she was exhausted.

Mr Bayliss said it was quite a workout and most people just lasted five to ten minutes, but it was lots of fun. Time to find out for myself.

Grinning lifeguards opened one of the 2m diameter balls and I hopped in. They warned me to block my ears, inflated it with something resembling a leaf blower, and did up the zip.

Someone signalled to me that the photographer had arrived.

Then I got rolled out to the water and almost immediately fell over. I tried to get up, and I fell over again.

The kid in front of me was on hands and knees, so I gave up and copied him. It worked better, but I did feel a bit like a mouse running around and around in a wheel.

Lap one involved a lot of falling awkwardly sideways, so I tried again. The ball started fogging up, and my technique didn't really improve.

On my third lap I got more ambitious and tried launching myself further up the side of the ball to advance faster.

That definitely was exhausting, and the water beneath me was getting steadily more appealing as the ball heated up. I signalled to get out.

Mr Bayliss took pity on me when I said I was hot and asked if I'd like to try the water slide.

As I was climbing the stairs to the top, I momentarily regretted accepting his offer.

But I tried not to think about it too much, and a dunking at the bottom turned out to be a great way to cool off.

Using the water walking balls costs $5, and customers need a special wrist-band from reception.

They must also be over five years old, be physically healthy, and weigh no more than 120 kilograms.