Thursday, 01 March 2012
For those of you who watched the Superbowl recently, during the halftime show you may have noticed a strange fellow bouncing around on a tightrope with Madonna:
That "tightrope" is actually called slacklining, and the funny guy is actually Andy Lewis (Sketchy Andy), one of the stars of the sport. Slacklining may be a bit fringe, but after the Superbowl, it'll be more common, and I'm here to explain why everyone should get into it too, for health, balance, and fun.
Traditionally, slacklining is balancing on tubular webbing (usually 1-inch-2-inch) strung between two different points. The challenge is to get between those two points without falling off, which is much harder than it sounds. Once the basics are learned, a person can deviate into tricklining (doing tricks like Andy Lewis), longlining (walking long stretches), and highlighing (walking up high over buildings and cliffs- not for the faint of heart!).
Here's some great examples of longlining, tricklining...
And finally, the awesomeness that is highlining (not for beginners!):
I got into slacklining in the summer. As a climber, you learn to pick it up, which makes sense: the sport started roughly 20 years ago in Yosemite by some bored climbers. Believe it or not, it DIDN'T derive from tightrope walking, because the difference is in the material. When a person walks a slackline, it feels bouncy and stretchy, like being on a very narrow trampoline. In comparison, a tightrope is very very taut. I would argue it is harder to balance on a wiggly thing than on a tight thing. In any case, the barrier to start is low, with most slacklines being only a few feet off the ground and easy to bail on.
The best part of the whole thing is because has gotten popular, and you can get slackline sets at either MEC or REI for cheap.
Some other pretty awesome benefits of slacklining:
- Stronger tendons in the legs = less rolled ankles in life
- Your core gets a crazy workout (which you can feel the next day)
- Concentrating on balancing makes you go into a zen mode that's similar to meditation
- A welcome community of 'slackers' that are helpful to beginners
- Great for the the health, and low impact when you start
One of the other neat benefits I've found is the side effect of learning knots, pulley physics, and mechanical forces on webbing and rope.
Hopefully this information is an incentive for newcomers to try out slacklining. And, if you do try it out, maybe I'll see you around!
Have you ever heard of slacklining, highlining or other -linings? Did you see the Superbowl halftime stunt? What do you think about this unique sport?