Remember when you were a kid and you’d walk on a railroad track seeing how far you could go before falling off or getting run over? You don’t? Well maybe you were smarter than my friends and I.
Well there is a sport now called Slacklining which is an outgrowth from the past time of walking the rails.
It’s pretty natural for kids to try to balance on railings, fence rails, brick walls and trees that have fallen over. Especially trees that have fallen over a creek and the kid is wearing school or church clothes. You could take a group of 10 year old boys dressed in their Sunday best and promise them each a million dollars if they can stay clean for an hour. Place those boys on a church pew and they might walk away rich kids, but put them beside a fallen tree over a creek and they won’t last 5 minutes.
This trying to walk and balance on things is built into our DNA. Bees build hives, birds migrate and little kids fall into creeks wearing clean clothes, that’s just nature.
In this modern age of hustle and bustle it’s sometimes difficult to find a fallen tree over a creek in a nice gated community or in the city.
Buffalo Tip: Walking along railroad tracks as an adult is generally frowned upon. It may even earn you a pat down by a local law enforcement agent if you’ve recently enjoyed a nice chardonnay.
The answer to this dilemma is the Slackline. A slackline is 50+ feet of 2″ nylon webbing which can be secured between two trees and winched tight. If you can string it across a creek or alligator filled pond, even better!
Buffalo Tip: With a fair bit of practice, a person can learn to fall and not suffer more than a broken leg.
Slacklines are cheap, convenient, mobile, make a really awesome dog leash and can secure logs to a tractor trailer in emergencies. The kit will fit easily in a backpack with room left over for ace bandages and ice packs.
Unlike railroad tracks and trees, the slackline has the added benefit of acting like a bungee cord. It’s like a 2″ wide trampoline. Some advanced practitioners throw flips and expert practitioners can land those flips.
I have recently become obsessed with this activity and ordered my own. The most well known brand seems to be Gibbons Slackline but I purchased Eagle’s Nest Outfitter’s Slackwire, cause I’m a rebel. Also rebels don’t have much money and the ENO Slackwire was a few dollars less.
Both brands are priced about the same and the difference is generally about the extra components included in the kit.
There are purists which order the strap separately and use carabiners or pulleys and (MA) mechanical advantage to set up their slackline. A few searches on Google uncovered very well written forum posts on this subject that would put some doctoral theses to shame. Most of which were like this blog and commented about as TLDNR Too Long Did Not Read.
I set up between two trees that were within crawling distance of the house. I also ran a steel cable as an overhead line about 20 feet up in the trees from which I suspended a thick rope on a clip that can slide along with me as I move along the slackline. When I take the slackline down, I leave the steel cable up so neighbors will think I’m setting up for a high wire act.
For the first 30 minutes I didn’t stand hands free on the line for more than a few seconds. However, like a slot machine pay out, every so often I was rewarded with a moment of balance. That’s when the addiction sets in.
After 3 hours I was able to balance for a minute and even take a few steps. Best tip I can give is to practice one leg balance first. Alternate legs, don’t just practice on your dominant leg or it will start to make fun of your weaker leg. We all know how a dominant leg can be. Trying to balance on one leg at first will feel very, very wobbly but with time you will become stable and it will feel very wobbly.
The line I hung down for support from the steel cable was the best learning aid.
I practiced barefoot and in my five fingers Fila Skeletoes and Vibram KSO. The Vibram KSO which have a thin sole felt the best for contact and grip.
This post was written after 5 hours of practice.