In college, I had a crazy group of friends. We’d throw fire and climb on roofs; people definitely knew us because we knew how to have fun. One of the activities we tried to do whenever the weather was nice (rarely in upstate New York!) was slackline. That’s right, we were those crazy circus kids (Yeah, people called us that, I can’t imagine why!) who walked on a thin piece of nylon webbing tied between two trees.
Don’t worry though, because it’s definitely not an exclusive sport. One of our favorite activities was pulling random students from the quad and making them try it out. Now you can too!
How to Get Started
Go buy yourself a slackline starter kit. We recommend this one by Gibbon. Or just get yourself a long piece of one or two inch nylon webbing and four carabiners. Your best bet is to find a couple friends who also want to try and split the cost. It’s not too expensive, but a bit of an investment for something new. The good news is once you have the equipment, it’s all free.
To set up the line, you’ll want to find two sturdy trees that are about twenty feet apart. Set up the line according to the instructions of this tutorial if using carabiners or this one if using a ratchet, and you’re good to go. One important tip when trying to balance: focus on the tree, not the line to stay steady!
There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but with a little practice you’ll be standing up and walking across the line no problem. After awhile, you may even be tempted to try jump mounts and hops on the line, pivot turns, and walking backwards. Some of my friends even juggle, play instruments, or toss a frisbee back and forth while on the line.
Important Safety Issues
Slacklining is pretty safe if it’s done correctly. However, when trying it for the first time overconfidence can be incredibly dangerous. Always make sure there’s a spotter around for inexperienced slackliners to try out new tricks.
In addition, starting with the line low and tight makes it easier and safer. To tighten the line properly, be sure you have enough strong people pulling or use a ratchet system. As for height, anything below hip-level is good, but just above the knee is best for beginners.
Check all your equipment regularly, and be sure it’s in good and properly working condition. Make sure carabiners aren’t too loose. Check that the nylon webbing isn’t starting to run or pucker. To keep everything in working order, store equipment in a dry place and keep the line rolled up when not in use.
The last safety issue is more for nature than for you. If you’re using trees as your anchors, be sure to put cardboard between the line and the tree, so as not to rip off any of the bark.
For More Information
If slacklining sounds like fun, then you should definitely get a group together and try it out for a couple hours. If you want a little more research before you try it yourself, Slackline.com has forums and information. Youtube has a bunch of instructional videos and some with really cool tricks for inspirtation.