If You Cannot Climb, Slackline
Slacklining, the ultimate balance sport, evolved from humble beginnings in American rock climbing communities during the 1970s. Bad-weather days saw climbers rig their thin pieces of webbing between trees to create a challenging form of active recovery, all in the name of balance. Chain fences were strolled upon; camper vans used as anchors; and, soon, slacklining became an art in its own right.
Since then, the slackline has morphed its appearance into the bouncy, the long, and the ever-so-high. It is known all over the world from Indonesia to Iran, and although the nature of the sport lets only the most equilibrated rule, its relaxed, fun, and social nature has allowed it to spread through all ages and cultures.
Slacklining has introduced me to the way of accessing high-performance levels catalyzed by incentive. The fear of falling, ultimately dying, from a highline sparks consciousness levels of focus and determination that not many people experience. And this is why slacklining is such a powerful cross-training tool – a balanced mind and body performance enhancement.
Why I Slackline
I have used the slackline to heal a back injury, better understand my mind and its mechanics, and venture into the Pandora’s box of balance. Currently, I teach slacklining to people of all abilities in the U.K. and am pioneering ways of using the line in the strength and conditioning arena with developing athletes, to enhance their much-needed proprioception and focus.
People often are surprised at the sensory overload slacklining delivers, but every single person I’ve slacklined with has laughed. When they stop, so will I.
Slacklining can be divided into three categories.
Tricklining uses a thicker, wider material, upward of 30 feet long and 2 inches wide.
The name of the game is to perform a variety of rotations, poses, and flips, taking influence from the realms of board sports, break dance, and freestyle gymnastics. Competitions exist in this field, too, held worldwide by the World Slackline Federation. Tricklining is physically intense and will test your body.
Longlining is about walking lines rigged to exceptional distances, the current record sitting at 500 meters – 1,640.5 feet!
Here, the setup of the line is complicated, expensive, and technically takes a long time to master. The key is quieting the mind and controlling the breath so that the muscles of the body can endure for as long as possible, which is the perfect prerequisite for highlining.
Highlining, as the name suggests, is about rigging lines at a height from which, if you fell, you would die. Ninety-five percent of highliners wear a leash – a protective piece of equipment that tethers the walkers to the line, catching them if they were to fall uncontrollably. Five percent do not.
The goal for highlining is a deeply personal one. Overcoming fear, dealing with failure, composure, and summoning energies of conviction are a few of the ordeals one goes through. Personally, I really appreciate the aesthetic of a line – how a line fits into the surrounding environment can be a really motivating factor. Highlining is by far one of the most psychologically intense extreme sports out there.