Everyone Slacks But You

As we look forward towards the first sustained warm days of 2016, I’m reminded of the last few of 2015. Namely the record breaking exploits of Spencer Seabrooke in Squamish, BC in early August. I myself have been slacklining, admittedly 289 meters lower than Spencer, since last summer, and occasionally encounter inquisitive onlookers seeking explanations, and sometimes lessons. For those who belong to the latter category, look no further. The following will serve as a brief tutorial on how to slackline.

Your first step is finding a suitable spot. I recommend a grassy locale with a soft landing for the inevitable tumble – free of any sharp debris such as rocks, litter, knives, porcupines, etc. Parks are many slackliners’ first choice, though you should be sensitive to the needs of other park patrons. Ideally, a spot not opposing busy park paths – either paved or otherwise. Some parks have even begun installing slackline poles: man made steel stumps which protect trees and create recognized spaces for slacklining. For the purist though, trees are the only option. Just make sure that any anchor-trees you use are at least  30 cm wide at their trunk, and always bring a tree protector to preserve the tree’s bark and wellness.

The distance between trees is up to you. Shorter lines are easier to learn on initially, because they keep relatively constant tensility through their entire length. Longer lines have more movement and variability of flex, and therefore a steeper initial learning curve, but will better prepare you for future endeavours. The height of your line will vary as you gain in confidence and ability. Initially, keep the line just short of hip height at its centre point. Besides obvious safety reasons, this will allow you to step onto the line relatively easily without the need for awkward tree climbing.

Alright, are you ready to walk? Good. Shoes are optional. Stand near one end of the line facing the other, placing a foot length-wise on the line so that your toes point towards the far anchor-tree. Keep this stance in mind later when you start walking. For now, press down hard and strong as you raise yourself up level with the line. This will be your first stumbling block: standing. One part leg strength, one part balance, and a whole lot of muscle memory. It may very well take an entire day to get up and stay up for more than a moment. Just keep trying. Keep your arms out to the side for balance, bending at the elbow a little to gain greater counterbalance control, and keep your eyes firmly straight ahead on the meeting point of line and tree. Once you’re steady enough, you can begin thinking about taking your first steps. Try to take them quickly, but not too rushed. With each step the line trembles, so limiting time spent on a single foot is best.

From here on, it’s up to you. Mind the centre, it’s the trickiest part!

A zealot for art, ancient history, and rock climbing, Daniel considers himself a person. He puts his sweaters on like everyone else, over top of a lighter shirt. By combining this with pants, underwear, socks and shoes, no task is too tough for Daniel – especially those concerning a clothed late 20-something year old.

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