Human ‘hamster ball’ thrills Branson Ballknocker riders

30 Jul

The name is enough to make most men think twice about hopping onboard one of Branson’s newest attractions.
I didn’t think at all. I quickly said, “Sure, I’ll do it.”
Like many new Branson attractions, the Ballknocker offers a unique experience meant only for those strong of heart — and stomach.
I met Holly Rudderman and her husband, Jared, a few minutes after the 24-year-old couple from Parsons, Kan., had strapped themselves into the 12-foot, inflatable, rubber sphere and rolled down the 600-foot-long Ballknocker course.
“When we saw the Ballknocker, we thought it would be sort of like being in a big hamster ball,” Holly said after their down hill run. “You know, the kind of balls that they roll around the living room in.”
Holly said that she was a little leery of trying the extreme sport, but her husband guilted her into it.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “It wasn’t like a hamster’s ball at all. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. We bounced a couple of times and … Oh, my goodness! I might have some kind of death wish.”
Holly said she doesn’t ride rollar coasters or zip lines — “Nothing extreme,” she said.
Jared, on the other hand, loves extreme sports and embraced the opportunity to try something new.

Watch Ballknocker video

“Oh yeah, I’ll do anything that’s got a better than 50 percent chance of me surviving,” Jared said to me proudly. “It’s like a rollar coaster on the ground that keeps looping and looping, over and over and over, and you are just along for the ride. I’ve done skydiving and bungie jumping and this was just as cool. There’s nothing else like it in Branson.”
That’s the kind of excitement Rob and Cindy Barker hoped for when the ordered a few of the giant balls online. The family saw a similar attraction in New Zealand featured on the Internet and this year opened a Ballknocker business in Branson. The couple’s son, Trevor, 25, works the business and has seen all types of people take the 20-second ride.
“They love it,” Trevor told me after I had taken the Ballknocker challenge. “It’s another extreme sport for them to try. We had two 84-year-olds do it. They were a little tipsy and laughed their asses off the whole way down. If you’re a thrill seeker, it’s the ride for you.”
I was solo on my ride, but Trevor said a couple riding together can really get the Ballknocker rolling fast. It was fast enough for me with only one person inside. During my ride, I made 14 complete revolutions.
Trevor suggests tossing in a 5-gallon bucket of cold water just before the ball is pushed off its launch platform for a little extra-added excitement. I opted for a less excitement and skipped the H2O.
I thanked Holly and Jared for sharing their experience with me and then headed out for a drink. Holly turned and said: “My friends will be like, ‘What were you thinking.’ It was fun in retrospect, but during it, I was like ‘What the hell was I thinking.’”
Me, too.

Want to go?
The Branson Ballknocker, 3330 West Harvey Lane, Branson Mo., behind Ruby Tuesday’s on Highway 76.
Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from10 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Details: 417-335-3958, www.ballknocker.com

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