Do you remember going to the circus as a child, looking up in wonder as the tightrope walker traversed a line, deathly high above the crowd? Did you, even for just a fleeting moment, wish you could grow up and do the same thing? If you did, you’re not alone. In fact, once upon a time a bunch of bored rock climbers got together out in Yosemite Valley and created a new sport called “slacklining,” which is basically a more athletic (and usually safer) version of tightrope walking. If you’re interested in breaking into the extremely fun pastime of slacklining, here’s a beginners guide.
What is it?
Slacklining is only a little different than the tightrope walking you saw in the circus as a kid. Instead of an extremely taut line, you walk along a piece of webbing, which tends to have less tension and a little more give. The height at which you walk the slackline is up to you, and it varies from a foot off the ground to 810 feet (the highest recorded urban slackline).
Choosing a slackline.
You can buy slackline kits, which will include everything you need to get started. If you’re just getting into slacklining, this is the way to go. There are several reparable brands on the market, but whichever you choose, go with a 2” wide line to start out on. It’s far easier to walk on than the more advanced, narrower models.
Set up your line.
If you’re just getting started, your two anchors really shouldn’t be more than 25 feet apart. You’ll have more stability this way, and it’ll be easier to maintain your balance. The line will attach to trees, vehicles, posts, etc. using simple loops in the webbing, and you create tension on the line using a ratchet system. As you get more experienced, you can play with the tension to add more slack and sag to your line.
Mounting your line.
Slackliners will tell you this can be the toughest part to master. Don’t expect to get it right the first time. To start with, put your non-dominant leg against the line near an anchor and then bring that non-dominant foot up and place it on the line (barefoot!). Now you have to fully commit and stand up in one fluid motion, putting your dominant foot on the line in front of your non-dominant foot. It helps to stare at a stationary point in front of you, like the opposite anchor. Again, expect to spend a lot of time getting the hang of this part.
Walking the line.
If you look at your feet while attempting to actually walk along your slackline, you’ll likely fall. The key is to stay focused on that stationary point in front of you and “search” for the line with your toes, using your arms to keep your balance. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be fun (even when you’re falling)!