Aerial Silks is an acrobatic sport that requires acrobats and athletes to suspend and swing themselves in the air with strength and flexibility. It's found massive popularity over the years because of the versatility involved in the activity. The athlete or performer is suspended by two lengths of fabric above the ground and performs various tricks that fall under three different categories: climbs, wraps, and drops. It's important to know the equipment involved in Aerial silks because it's imperative to have a fundamental understanding of the safety required when performing the activity.
The most essential equipment for aerial silks is the fabrics. The fabric equipment is classified by two types, aerial silks fabrics or an aerial hammock. The difference in classification is mainly due to the different moves being practiced or performed. When setting up the equipment it's best to reach out to professionals for guidance and certification. The main portion of equipment includes the swivels, carabiners, strops, and rescue 8s. The rigging system is essential to gaining the proper range of motion required to perform Aerial Silks. Another essential part of Aerial Silks are the proper form fitting clothes because it requires constant motion on fabric.
Another important part of the aerial silks rigging system is the carabiners. Carabiners help distribute weight within the system because they're specifically designed to work with the system's swivels or strops. Due to the nature of the carabiners in the Aerial rigging system (the connection between the anchor point and strops) it's frequently cited as the most important part of the system. It's best to buy the correct Aerial rigging carabiners, and avoid cheap and incorrectly sized ones.
When practicing Aerial Silks it's best to wear tight-fitting clothes like unitards, leotards, and biketards. Baggy clothes and pants with zippers have a higher risk of getting stuck and caught within the silk fabrics. Since you will be maneuvering within fabric for an extended period of time it's best to wear clothes that will protect sensitive areas. Since aerial silks is an activity that can be performed, there are different costumes available for the performance. The best costumes typically cover the entire body, providing specific coverage to the underarm region. It's best to wear fabrics that are cotton based rather than spandex because they aren't as slippery.
Safety nets and crash mats are important for aerial safety and often required in most settings. Their main purpose is to absorb the force and weight of your body if you fall. Having a crash mat or safety net underneath can save you from serious injuries. While thickness can vary depending on how skilled you are, it's still recommended for everyone to have a crash mat or net. While there's no set standard size for crash mattresses, it's generally believed that an 8 inch thick or more mattress is the right size when performing Aerial Silks.
When practicing aerial silks the equipment required is essentially the same for all levels. It's a rule of thumb for beginner aerial athletes to get longer fabrics, this helps being spotted when practicing different types of wraps, climbs and drops. It's also customary for intermediate and expert level athletes and performers to have shorter fabrics. Most are made from two different materials, nylon tricot or polyester-lycra which allow for a giving or two-way stretch. The fabrics used for Aerial Silks can also be classified by the amount of stretch allotted in a specific fabric or silk, either low stretch or medium stretch fabrics. Most low-stretch fabrics are typically meant for aerial beginners so that it's easier to learn different skills. On the other hand, medium and high stretch fabrics are used by more skilled and intermediate aerialists and provide more bounce when doing different skill moves and drops. Another reason professional aerialists typically use high stretch fabrics is that it's more of a task to do upscaling moves and climbs
Fun Fact: Aerial Silks fabrics can hold more than 1,000 pounds of weights, while most fabrics have a tensile strength or a breaking point at about 2,000 pounds of weight.
The Rescue 8 or Figure 8 is another essential part of the Aerial silks rigging system. Once it is connected to the system's strop, it cannot be undone unlike the carabiner, making the knotted fabric safe and secure for use. Figure 8 heads are crucial for keeping the fabric silks secure and playing a role in helping them last longer by keeping them in a secure hold and position.
There are many different groups and sets of strops and spansets available that connect with carabiners and the anchor point for a secure aerial performance. Strops are also known as spansets and can range from 50cm to 4m in length and are the polyester straps that connect to the carabiners in the rigging system.
It's always recommended to use a swivel when setting up Aerial Silks equipment because you should never be suspended in the air without it. It's critical for weight distribution among the Aerial fabric. Most tend to be lightweight and easy to add into the rigging system. A swivel should not be used if it has any irregularity including cracks, awkward range of motion, and lack of resistance as it spins. Irregularities like these can be dangerous and lead to serious injuries if left unattended. All Aerial Silks swivel rigs come with a rating provided by the manufacturing company to show that they meet the specifications and standards of the industry.