The novice slackline adventures continue.
I have to admit to being a little surprised. I thought for sure this was going to be one of those things that was just too hard and frustrating to stick with. Yet we still find ourselves meandering out to that yellow line whenever we have some downtime in our day.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It is hard – and it definitely is frustrating (at times) – but it is also a lot of fun, and can be strangely calming. We’ll jump on it for 10 minutes or so, sometimes a half hour – whenever there is a break in our day and the mood hits. I also find myself out there when I think I need to unwind a little. I’ll head out in between work calls, or when I need to step back from troubleshooting a problem. I’ve found it to be a nice little brain break, so to speak. Focusing on that line seems to do a bit of a mental purge for me.
Along the way we’ve picked up a few tricks and techniques – either online or through our own trial and error – and I thought I would share with you the ones that have helped us.
Beginner Slackline Tips
Stand before you walk: When you first start out, don’t worry about walking on the line. Your first few sessions should just be learning to get on the damn thing. Seriously. We spent our first days messing around with hiking poles and using one another’s shoulders for balance just so we could take a few steps and feel like we were accomplishing something. This didn’t help. In fact, it was probably teaching us improper technique. What did help was when we finally dropped the poles (and shoulders) and spent a day learning how to “step up” onto the line without assistance. It took awhile to get the hang of it, but all of our progress came from this.
Stick ’em up: Hold your hands high. Like someone has a gun in your back. This was something we picked up from watching Dean Potter’s highline videos, and it almost immediately helped us with our balance.
Eyes forward: The natural tendency is to look at your feet and make sure they land on the line. For whatever reason, I assume it is posture and balance related, looking down is bad news. Directly straight ahead doesn’t do much for me either, but looking out along the line – I’d say about 2 to 4 feet in front of you – seems to do wonders for us.
Settle it down: One of the tougher things for us to learn how to deal with was when the line would sway back and forth. I originally thought this was a product of a poor setup, which it might still be to some degree, but now also realize this is just the nature of a slackline. There is a lot of give. So the way we have found ourselves dealing with this is to simply counter the motion in another direction. Bouncing the line up and down seems to settle these sways for us. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be that dramatic. Sometimes a subtle little down pressure, even from taking a step forward, will halt the swaying. With time it seems like you can feel when the line is prone to left-right swaying and you can quickly adjust it with a step or a little up-down bounce.
Bend your knees: Not drastically, and not all the time. But a little bit of flex in our knees seems to help us with balance and, more importantly, with recovering from near falls.
Practice falling: Or I should say, practice almost falling. Teaching yourself how to recover from a near fall is a big step in going farther on the line. Sometimes we’ll just go out there and stand in place – no steps – and just see how long we can stay up there. Trying hard to recover each time we sway off balance. It helps you figure out different techniques, such as bending knees or flailing arms, that might work for you. For whatever reason, I am fairly good at recovering when I fall to my left, but really pretty terrible when I start to fall to my right. So that is something I’m working on.
Ok, so those are some of the tips that we’ve found useful as we bumble and stumble our way through novice slacklining. If you have any others to offer, we sure would appreciate if you send them our way.
Oh, and here is a video of our current state of progress:
That video was actually taken only a day after the last one we posted, which shows how progress can sort of come in spurts. One day we could barely take a single step, the next day we are almost making it across the line.
And yes, there is video of Jess slacklining… she just won’t let me post it. I’m not sure peer pressure would work, but feel free to try!