I was first introduced to slacklining while in South Africa. The woman I was with, and coincidentally the driver of the vehicle I was in, mentioned something along the lines of, “Man, I wish me had brought a slack line with us.”
We were driving from Pretoria in the north of the country to Cape Town in the most southern tip. I didn’t understand what a slack line was or why we needed it. I thought perhaps it was something similar to a tug line in case the car went off the road and we needed to drag it out. I was way wrong – and I wouldn’t have been able to pull a car anyway.
Slacklining is, in it’s most basic description, like tightrope walking. The user wraps one end of the flat nylon line (that varies in width) around a tree, post, pillar, or anything firm and sturdy. For this example, let’s say pillar. The other end is wrapped around another firm pillar and then sent through a ratchet device that tightens the line between the two pillars.
The end result is a spongy flat line that when stepped on sinks just a few inches from it original level. Users then walk along the line from one end, turn around, and walk back. They put one foot in front of the other and have their arms high, often with their hands above their heads to keep balance.
From a distance it could be mistaken as a kind of dance or ritual, but up close it resembles a DUI check where an officer asks you to walk a straight line. That is slacklining in its most basic form – tightrope walking.
But, with every basic form of something there is a more advanced and interesting form just waiting to be found. As users get better at slacklining they begin to learn tricks and different maneuvers on the line – soon enough it becomes boring to simply walk from one end to the other. Many slackliners begin by bouncing and land back on the line. They perform flips, spins, and belly flops and they almost always bounce back and land with their feet on the line – almost always.
Many have taken slacklining even further than simply doing tricks. Extreme slackliners have begun to hang high lines between mountain peaks and across valleys and crevasses, or even between their house and their neighbors.
They, usually, hook a nylon rope from the slackline to a harness (via some carabiners) that they wear around their waist and thighs. When (or if) they fall they will be protected by the line and harness. If that doesn’t sound scary enough, some have gone as far as walking the line, thousands of feet in the air, with no form of protection what so ever – A huge thrill for them but one most will not be able to fathom.
Aside from the thrill of it, slackling has been found to have many different benefits. Slacklining became immensely popular amongst rock climbers and still is to this day. Many climbers claim that slacklining has helped with balancing on small edges and finding proper foot placement. Others have said that it helps them trust where their foot is without spending the time to look down at it.
Some climbers disagree and say that slacklining does nothing for climbing and is nothing more than a form of entertainment for campsites and crags.
Why a person slacklines isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s fun, to say the least, and has been proven to improve general balance. Whether or not it improves a climbers balance on the wall is debatable and ultimately up to the climber to decide how they feel.
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However, studies have shown that slacklining, if done regularly, can not only improve a person’s balance, but also help rehab lower limbs and ligaments that have been injured, improve strength, and increase the ability to focus. The results are non-debatable – slacklining can help with a variety of issues.
Aside from the physical aspects of slacklining; the concentration that goes into such an act is immense. Try it, and you’ll find out how hard you have to concentrate. Many enjoy this part of slacklining simply because of the mental strength that goes into it.
Imagine concentrating with all of your might, putting one foot in front of the other. It may not sound that exciting, but as a person progresses through the line, some say they feel a sense of calm flood their body – a type of meditative state that allows all of the worldly troubles to vanish – poof. They do not have time to deal with anything but what they are focusing on and sometimes that could mean the difference between life and death – looking you the high-liners.
The same can be said of anyone that finds bliss in any form of exercise. Take for example a person that runs long distances. To many, running does not sound fun, enjoyable, meditative, or therapeutic. But, to that runner, running can give them more than any other person can imagine or understand – the same can be said about slacklining.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, slacklining is a form of fun. Whether or not you feel the possible benefits of it or not is irrelevant because what works for one may not work for everyone.
Personally, I think everyone should try slackline at least once. Who knows, in no time you may end up setting a line between your house and your neighbors – just be safe about it.
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