Have you ever heard of a sport called slacklining? Over a handful of years ago I was introduced to this new recreational activity by my younger brother, Mark. As a rock climber, he was around a great community of people who love the outdoors. They thrive on using their bodies to scale the earth, not only by traversing and scaling rock formations, but now also by suspending a rope between formations and walking the line. Thus slacklining is born and now enjoyed all over the world. It’s catching on fast and with the momentum it has, is certainly not going to stop. Today my brother and I hung out with slacklining friends of his in Boulder. They set up two lines; a long line and a regular line. While hanging out with them, I was reminded of how fun the sport is and more importantly, what a great community of people it attracts. No wonder it’s taking the world by storm. Anywhere people set up and enjoy it, people stop and stare and even more fun, ask to learn and try it out.
So what is slacklining? Well, let me preface what I’m about to say with the fact that I am not a slackliner. This means that I enjoy being around, watching it, I’ve tried it a few times myself, however it’s just not my thing…at least not yet. For now, I love being a fan of the sport by cheering along my brother Mark in his passion. My explanation of it, therefore, may not be that accurate and probably won’t include all the lingo of the culture. I describe it as mastering fantastic balance of your body while walking along a rope made of either nylon or polyester webbing. It may at first look and sound like tightrope walking, but it’s different because with rope made of webbing, it moves and flexes, bounces and gives to the weight and movement of your body. I’ve noticed how my brother Mark uses his arms a lot as he traverses the line. He’s always told me that this is part of maintaining balance. From what I’ve also seen, it’s an amazing work-out for your core body as well…some of the guys that do this have an amazing set of abs, let me tell you! And the ladies that do it as well, but I have a thing for men, so….just saying. The goal of course is to walk from one end of the line to the other. As one practices more and gets better at the sport you can enjoy doing tricks on the line, like jumping and landing back on it, swinging the line side to side and then bringing it back to steady center, and even sitting down on the line and then getting back up…all this without falling.
Slacklining doesn’t just stop at that though. Over the years people have taken it even further. Further UP I mean. Now it’s developed into highlining, which is the same but over greater heights, like spanning a canyon or a river where a waterfall may be cascading nearby…thus the name highlining. Not rocket science here, huh. I’ll never forget when I saw the pictures last year of my brother Mark and his friends in Yosemite, where they walked a highline that spanned across an open canyon of over 3,000 feet high! Yeah…and there goes Mark, laying down on the line!
The key thing about highlining is that you’re tethered in, meaning you have a harness, just like a rock-climbing harness, around your waist and legs, and from there you’re clipped to the rope. The small tethered rope is then able to follow you along the line as you walk. But careful if you do fall, cause you’ll experience quite the jerk on your body, especially if you don’t catch the main line with your hands. After all though, that’s what the harness and being clipped in is for, right?
What I love about the sport is the community. It attracts people of all ages who love the outdoors and want to enjoy the thrills of taking a risk. Commonalities I’ve enjoyed when I hang out with them, is a love of travel and the world, of diversity and openness to new and amazing things. I think about what a view of things one must get when they’re on the line…whether they’re only a few feet from the ground or over thousands of feet high above any solid ground, being on the line gives you such a view. What kind of perspectives must that provide? What kind of steadiness of body and mind does it take to focus ahead as you take steps one in front of the other with only a rope beneath your feet?
I think the sport can take people to such a new level of awareness of themselves…their body, their mind, and…yes, I will dare to say it…even their soul. At least it can, if one wants it to. For whatever reasons you may encounter it one day, at least consider enjoying it, either by watching and getting to know the people, or by physically taking part and doing it yourself. Why not? Take a walk on the line and let me know what you think.
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