Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The next challenge: slacklining

Slacklining is an offshoot of tightrope - you string up 1" wide nylon webbing between two trees or poles and try to walk it. A tightrope doesn't actually move much as you walk it - but a slackline is different. The webbing is really elastic and bouncy and wobbles like crazy under your feet. It's really difficult, but it's a fantastic challenge. And to do it you have to be in an almost meditative state - tightly focused, but relaxed.

I first started picking it up at the gymnastics park at the original muscle beach site in Santa Monica (where I spend every Sunday). My friend Ernie is the master and taught me how to get started. I still had to dedicate two full Sundays to it before I was able to walk across it all the way. Ernie's line is super simple - he just ties the appropriate knots to mount his line around the poles. But he also has to re-tighten it every hour or so as the tension slips out of the line. And he can't wrap the line around a tree (the abrasion against the bark would tear up the line).

His line snapped (three guys were jumping on it) so we were slackline-less for about a month. I started getting antsy so he pointed me to this great site, www.slacklineexpress.com, that offers beginner's kits that come with everything you need. So I ordered a 50' kit and started playing as soon as it arrived.

This kit takes the whole system to another level. It's freakin' awesome. There's the sweet ratchet to crank in the line's tension and a secondary strap/carabiner system to wrap around trees or poles. Slackline Express supplied everything, even sewing in loops at the end of the straps. The webbing itself is only worth about $13, but with all the extras the kit came in at around $90. A worthwhile investment, I think.

The only thing I had to add were 2" webbing shields for the tree straps to protect against abrasion. A whopping $0.60 per foot from REI.

Anyway on Saturday I got my sister, my roommate, and his girlfriend to give it a try out at the park near our apartment. Check out the videos on this page (scroll down below the photo). Some of them are pretty dang funny. Andrew had a rough going his first time on the line, but improved quickly. Dawn started well and really stunned me with how far she progressed in that first session. Katie did well too, but needs a little more practice to get her confidence up.

As the summer progresses I'll grab more video footage of everyone to post.


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