What is Slacklining?
Slacklining is the act of balancing, walking or running across a suspended line of tubular webbing attached by two anchors. Similar to slack rope walking and tightrope walking, slacklining uses a stretchy polyester webbing that is 1 to 2 feet wide. Slacklines have little-to-no tension, making the flexible material resemble a trampoline. It can be performed as an exciting backyard activity or as a thrilling challenge high in the air.
Slacklining originated in Yosemite Valley when climbers began balancing on tubular webbing. In the early 1980’s, Adam Grosowsky and John Ellington set up a 55 foot-long cable line approximately 2,980 feet up in the air. Although neither climber was able to walk across the line, slacklining was born and the world took serious note of what was attempted.
How To Play
Slacklining takes place at parks, in backyards, or anywhere you can find adequate space. It can be performed in any outdoor setting; all you need is two anchor points, such as trees or poles, and space to safely set up a slackline. To ensure safety, always have a soft surface underneath the slackline like grass, sand, dirt, or water.
Essential equipment for all slackliners are two anchor points and a 1 to 2 inch stretchy strap called webbing. Other pieces of equipment vary depending on the slackliner’s skill level. More advanced slackliners use frames, ratchets, and pulleys.
Here is the essential slacklining equipment you should have:
- Two Anchor Points:
There are many disciples of slacklining, such as lowlining, highlining, and tricklining. Lowlining can be defined as walking across any slackline longer than 100 feet. A fall while highlining can result in serious injury, as the slackliner is suspended high in the air and requires a harness. Tricklining is the art of performing tricks on the suspended webbing.
The objective of all slacklining styles is simple; make it from the start point to the end point on the webbing without falling.
Rules and Regulations
In general, slacklining is permitted in most parks throughout the world. Most cities and counties are still organizing a solidified rule system. However, some basic rules are followed in slacklining to protect the sport.
Here are the most important slacklining rules you should know:
Trees: Mount slacklines on trees with a minimum diameter of 30 centimeters but not if the tree appears unhealthy. Use tree protectors and never break branches.
Anchor Point: Never use light poles, signs, handrails or similar structures.
Signaling: Use a signal or flag to insure lines that are at eye level or below are seen by surrounding people.
Setup Area: Do not set up slacklines that cross roads, paths or other walkways and be aware of those who may enter the fall zone.
Backup lines: Set up a backup slackline in the tensioning system to protect the slackliner and those nearby.
Equipment: Check the condition of your equipment before you set up/use the tensioning system.
The trick to beginning to practice the sport of slacklining is to start low and to practice a lot. Here are the most important slacklining strategies you should know:
Distance off the ground: Beginners should start with lines between 1.5 and 2.5 feet off the ground.
Tight Line: Use a tight line for less bounce and sway, loosening the line as you become comfortable.
Walking Partner: Use a ground walking partner of a helpline set up above your head at an arm's-length to provide support when you are beginning.
Body positioning: Keep your wrists and arms flexible, fix your gaze at the end of the line, keep your chest upright with knees slightly bent. Keep your feet parallel to the line and take controlled steps. Continue to practice these guidelines to build muscle memory of how it works.
Here is the common lingo and slang in slacklining:
- Onsight: walking the line on your first try
- Floss: when webbing goes in between the slide wheels and doesn’t stay flat
- Full Man: walking both ways on a line without falling
- Exposure: turning perpendicular to the line and looking at the exposure
- Hangover: the most popular brand of a line slide
- Whip/Whipper: falling off a highline and being caught by a leash
Even though slacklining is a relatively new sport, there are many athletes who have won various tournaments and set world records.
Here are the most famous slacklining players you should know:
- Giovanna Petrucci: Born in Brazil in 1998, she is a two-time Slackline World Champion Circus Artist.
- Friedi Kuhne: He was born in Germany in 1989 and has a world record in free solo and has even slacklined blindfolded.
- Dean Potter: Born in the U.S. in 1972, Dean was a free climber, alpinist, BASE jumper, and highliner.
There are no leagues in slacklining but players can join clubs all around the world. Clubs can join the International Slacklining Association (ISA), an organization that was developed to consolidate the efforts of many non-profit groups and to support the development of organizations worldwide.
Events and Competitions
Only 15% of slackliners consider competitions in the sport as an important aspect of slacklining. Nonetheless, there are regional and national festivals in countries around the world, as well as a world competition event.
Here are some popular events in slacklining:
World Slackline Masters: Slackliners can compete in three different disciplines of the sport: Trickline, Speedlining and Jiblining.
THT Cevennes: The Troglodyte Highline Tour welcomes slacklining athletes from around the world to compete in highline events.
VerticAlbenga: This event takes place in Piazza del Popolo in the center of Albenga and is dedicated to sports activities that can be done in urban areas with particular attention to Slackline
What are the specifications of typical slacklines?
Woven from polyester or nylon, slacklines vary in width from 2.5 to 5 cm (1-2 inches) and have a breaking strength of 2500 to 5000 kg (approx. 5500-11000 lbf). Tension typically varies from between 300 to 800 kg (approx. 700 to 1800 lbf).
Should slacklining be done barefoot or with shoes?
Deciding between shoes or going barefoot is a matter of preference. After experimenting with both, the athlete will decide which provides more security.
What is the difference between slacklining and tightrope walking?
The webbing has less tension in slacklining, creating a more dynamic line that stretches and bounces as though one were on a trampoline. Also, slackliners do not use any poles to balance.
Which creates more force on a tree, a slackliner or high winds?
High winds exert a greater force on a tree than does a slackliner regardless of their weight.