Last weekend I spent up in Davis, enjoying the Picnic Day festivities. I had to fight my way through hoards of intoxicated day-partiers crowding the streets just to get to campus and Picnic Day, but once there, I was introduced to a new quickly growing sport and hobby: slacklining.
In front of the Outdoor Adventure building a small group of barefoot adventurists were taking turns walking along what looked like a wide rope a few feet above the ground and anchored between two trees. A very wobbly, stretchy rope. I watched for a while, fascinated by the spectacle. When I was asked to give it a try, I thought, “what the heck, it can’t be too hard…”
Oh, was I wrong. It was impossible to stay on for more than a second or two before the rope sent me diving towards the ground. But it was also incredibly addictive, like those annoying sudoku games that are impossible but you just cannot put them down. I must have tried five times just to take the first step without falling.
Now I’m hooked. So I decided to learn a little bit more about slacklining…
So what exactly is slacklining?
Simply put, it is balancing on the nylon fiber webbing that is stretched between two points on the ground. Turns out, that “rope” is actually a one-inch wide nylon webbing. It stretches under your weight, hence the name, “slacklining.” The points are typically about 15 to 100 feet in length. It is a workout for both mind and body, as it requires great focus to balance.
Where did slacklining come from?
It was originated in the 1980’s in Yosemite by climbers Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington. After spending rainy days walking along loose chain fences for entertainment, they decided to try using climbing equipment tied between two trees, and started the sport of slacklining. Slacklining was truly made popular by Dean Potter, a well-known rock climber.
Why should anyone slackline?
First off, it is incredibly addicting! But slacklining is also a sport to strengthen balance and self-discipline, much like yoga. Slacklining is known to be meditating and calming. It improves core strength, and many athletes use slacklining as part of their training. Not to mention it is a fun outdoor hobby that can be done just about anywhere.
What is the equipment needed to slackline?
A slackline, tensioning device and system to attach the slackline to two points, padding (if using trees), and two slings to put around the fixed points. Try slacklinebrothers.com or REI for a good set.
Here are the five types of slackline you can try:
lowlines: This is the most common and best to start out on. It is a few feet above the ground, generally the height of your hips, so that a fall to the ground is not too bad.
longlines: A line up to 100 feet is stretched across two points. This is more difficult because the slackline sways easier and further.
rodeo lines: Also known as “freestyle”, this line is looser and harder to do.
highlines: This seems to be one of the more popular forms, and also one of the most intense. Highlines must be set up by professionals and are too high to jump safely down to the ground from and require a second line or rope attached to the slackliner in a harness and the slackline in case the slackliner falls.
waterlines: While waterlines are set up above water, so there is no solid surface to aid in jumping on the slackline, they are fun to do because the water is much more forgiving than a hard surface.
Whether you chose to slackline in a park or highline across a waterfall,