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Saturday Slacklining

Dave is a great gift-giver. He usually comes up with ideas that are fun and creative and totally off my radar. Of course, most of his gifts to me are also somehow for “us,” but I don’t mind sharing with him. Makes it more fun.

Last Christmas, he gave me a gift that was so out-of-the-blue and unexpected that I had no idea what it was even after I opened it. I sat there staring at it – a neatly coiled, neon yellow length of nylon webbing with a ratchet – and thought to myself, “Sweet! I can totally tie the kayak down by myself with this!”

He just sort of laughed at my confusion. With a little prodding, I finally realized that what I held in my lap was a slackline. Cool!

For those not familiar with slacklining, it’s a fairly new sport made popular by the climbing community. A slackline is essentially a long piece of webbing, usually an inch or two wide, that is strung between two anchor points. The line is dynamic, which allows for some neat-o “tricks.” It also requires superb balance.

On Saturday afternoon we were lazing around, exhausted and jet-lagged, torn between taking a nap and wanting to get outside on such a beautiful day, when Dave suggested we set up the slackline. To be honest, I had totally forgotten about it. Christmas was a long time ago. But it was a great idea, so we dug the slackline out of the closet and went searching our backyard for two suitable trees.

After some fumbling, it was pretty easy to rig up.

And the ratchet makes it very easy to adjust the “slackiness” of the line.

And then Dave had to make sure that any potentially dangerous debris was cleared out from under the line. He’s big on safety.

When it was deemed safe, we made our first attempts. Unable to even stand on the slackline unassisted, we used each other’s shoulders for support. But even with a shoulder to lean on, we never got more than a step or two before losing our balance and falling the entire foot to the ground.

And then Dave came up with another one of his brilliant ideas. Hiking poles! They’re like training wheels for budding slackliners. And it freed me up to snap some pictures.

Dave carefully stepped up onto the line, using the poles for support.

And then he was off!

And pretty soon he was cruising along with only one pole for support. Do you notice any other difference here? Hint: look at his head. He insisted his backward hat was “tipping him,” so he carefully turned it forward. It actually seemed to help.

He even managed to turn around without falling. But then he started to lose his balance.

And once he lost his grip on the second hiking pole, all bets were off.

All in all, a solid effort for a novice slackliner.

Just for fun, let’s compare Dave’s photo sequence to this video of Dean Potter slacklining the classic Lost Arrow Spire line in Yosemite.

The similarities are striking, are they not?

Note that Dean is not just slacklining, but highlining. And please also note that Dean is highlining to a 250 foot spire UNLEASHED, completely without protection. As in, if he falls, he’s DEAD. Dean Potter is an animal.

Rest assured, Dave and I are not anywhere near that brave or coordinated and have no great highlining aspirations. It’s just another way for us to get outside and have some fun.

If you’re interested in giving slacklining a try, use your 20% off member discount over at REI for a basic slackline and ratchet set. It’s really a lot of fun!

5 Comments

  1. Leanne C
    Leanne C04-12-2010

    Wow, next thing I know you guys will be joining the circus! Jess, I want to see the video of you trying this thing out. What a great way to spend a Saturday.

    • Jessica
      Jessica04-13-2010

      Nooo way. The pics of me trying this out are less than flattering. Dave looks way more confident and composed. A video would be funny though. Once you get bouncing and swinging back and forth it’s reallly hard to steady yourself. And the hysterical laughing from both parties doesn’t do much to help the situation. Good times.

  2. Dave
    Dave04-13-2010

    We tried to get Foster up there… but it was a no-go.

  3. tourpro
    tourpro04-14-2010

    I’ve been lookng at various kits for awhile, and I have two perfect trees.

    That video is insane.

    • Dave
      Dave04-14-2010

      The Gibbon has been decent so far, I don’t have anything to compare it to but we’ve had no problems with it and found it relatively easy to setup and adjust. Heck, these things are so basic that if I was more of a DIY’er it would have been easy to make my own.

      If you do get one, we’ll have to trade tips. For example, I’ve since read that using poles (like I was above) can be bad when you are learning. It teaches you improper form. I can see how that would be true, the tendency is to lean over onto them.

  4. Beginner Slackline Tips | Towns and Trails
    Beginner Slackline Tips | Towns and Trails05-06-2010

    […] 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 […]

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