Watching my children play always reminds me of how open and free and capable we are as kids. I’m trying to re-capture that feeling by doing things that are pure fun and serve no other practical purpose in my life. Like slacklining.
Slacklining does have physical benefits, but that’s not the point for me. It’s that feeling of being centered, being balanced, and trying something that is difficult in order to learn more about myself.
I use the ‘primitive’ slackline system, which uses climbing webbing and carabiners for tensioning, but there are some pretty slick kits out there that are quicker to set up and easier to tighten. If you want to set up a long line, you’ll probably want to get a ratcheting tensioner. I haven’t had to yet.
My homemade slacklining setup consists of 60 feet of 1″ tubular webbing, 6 carabiners (three sets of two, with a pair of locking ‘biners as one set), and some climbing slings, both pre-sewn and homebuilt to fit different sized trees. I use either duct tape covered cardboard or a scrap of carpet to protect the bark from the webbing (a tree-saver), whichever one is handier.
It would probably just confuse you if I were to try to explain the exact setup for a primitive slackline in my own words, but this video shows you what you need to know:
How to Set up a Homemade Slackline:
And then you can start to rip:
One of my goals is to walk a highline, mostly just to do it, but partly because I love the adrenaline rush that comes from pushing the boundaries of my physical body, and being that far off the ground, even in a harness, is kind of addicting. I don’t think I’d walk it without a harness and tether, like this next guy, Dean Potter, but I get a huge rush just watching him…
Having a slackline can provide hours of fun and fitness for parents and children alike. Slacklining is a fun way to stay fit and work on your balancing skills. It really works the core muscles and all the stabilizing muscles in your feet and calves. It can also be unpredictable as hell, so your reflexes get pretty sharp after a while.
I love it for the mental time-out it gives me. Everything else disappears just for a second… All I see is the line.
Slacklining is also a lifelong challenge. Once you’ve got the basics of walking the line down, there are as many variations as you can think up: slackline tricks, surfing, yoga, partners, and highlining.
Resources to help you on your way to a slackline addiction:
- Slacklining at Wikipedia
- Information for parents can be found at: Slackline Express Parents
- There’s a great how-to slackline page at Slackline Express Tips
- For some history, check out Slackline.com’s A History of Slacklining
If you’ve got a couple of trees in your yard, or a park nearby, get a slackline and get balanced.
[This post is one from the archives, previously published in March of 2009. I got the urge to republish it when the bag with my slackline setup in it fell out of my closet and onto my head. I am taking that as a suggestion that I need to set it up and start slacking again.]
Image: Lively Images at Flickr