By Eileen Qian:
For anyone who considers himself to be clumsy or uncoordinated, an activity called slacklining may be able to help. In this unique sport, participants set up slacklines, usually one inch wide in diameter, and use their sense of balance to walk across it with their bare feet. While this may automatically evoke images of tightrope walking that is often seen in circuses, slacklining is different in that the ropes are much looser. The sport also gives the athlete the opportunity to try out different rope tensions as well as rope lengths, giving the athlete much more variety to work with than with tightrope walking.
Slacklining is not an easy sport to pick up, as one needs not only an extraordinary sense of balance but also a lot of patience. For the majority of people, the first experience will just be a series of wild arm swings followed by a full-body fall to the side. Fortunately, the lines are generally set up a few feet above ground, so falling off the rope is relatively harmless. Many beginners find it discomforting that the
strength and agility required for other sports do not apply to this sport at all. The only way to improve is to practice and find strategies and tricks to stay focused, such as taking slow steps from toe to heel, finding a focus point and keeping one’s arms stretched out.
While the sport may be frustrating at first, it provides benefits to the slackliners. For instance, for Leila Andrews, a member of the Bay Area Slacklining group, the sport effectively relieves stress. “Slacklining requires a completely calm frame of mind,” Andrews said. “It is one of the few times I can really clear my thoughts and stresses and completely focus on one task. It is a great way to relax and sync the body and mind.”
For those who are more experienced with slacklining and comfortable with their abilities, there is also a subculture of slacklining called tricklining, where people use shorter two-inch wide lines and combine their balance and creativity to perform jumps and other acrobatics. Some common tricks include doing front flips, backflips and sitting on the rope. Two ropes can also be set up, increasing the variety of performable tricks. People can jump from one rope to another or even do push-ups.
Although the activity is uncommon amd eccentric, there is a Bay Area Slacklining group consisting of over 100 members. According to Bryce Jasmer, the event organizer of the group, the events are great places to practice and meet other slacklining enthusiasts. “What makes it unique is that there is a very small community of people that are into slacklining,” Jasmer said. “We get lots of people walking by that are curious about it.” Jasmer encourages anyone who is interested in the sport to try it in a local park or join the meetup group. He offers some valuable advice for begin- ners who may be frustrated with the difficulty of the sport. “Be patient with yourself,” Jasmer said. You’re not going to be able to slackline right away. But if you keep at it long enough, you’ll start taking three or four steps without fall- ing. Practice some more and you’ll extend that out to five or six steps. Before you know [it], you’ll be able to make it all the way across the line.”
For those interested in slacklining, the Bay Area Slacklining group organizes meetups through www.meetup.com/ Bay-Area-Slacklining.