Articles written for various community newspapers in the Lower Mainland, B.C. and special interest print and online magazines

Friday, November 6, 2009

Because of you...

Ask any slacklining junkie: Walk the Line is probably their favourite Cash song.

Slacklining started in the 1970’s, grew in the climbing community and has since been on the popularity upswing worldwide. Those who have managed the feat of balancing on flat nylon webbing suspended between two anchor points know the sport's addiction keeps you staring down the carabiner at the other end of the line again and again.

Mastery of the sport involves gaining control over a teasing line that shakes beneath unsteady legs and sways with every jerky movement. First you curb the impulse to wildly flail your arms. Remembering to breathe as you would in yoga helps ground your centre of gravity. Keeping your weight on the ball of the foot is key. Making it across requires a steady gaze, patience and doggedness to stay on when the webbing threatens to flip you off. Shoes are optional and allow for a bigger platform to balance on. Advised when learning to do aerial somersaults.

The health benefits are many. Slacklining develops intercostal muscles as well as intense core strength without you even realizing you are exercising! Fighting to stay on the line engages the inner thigh, lower abdomen and hips. Posture improves once you have figured out the subtle adjustments that need to be made to your body alignment. Be careful not to stress unnecessary muscles like your shoulders and neck as they will end up sore the next day.

Unlike a tightrope, the slackline is flexible, giving bounce that is appealing to skateboarding and surfing tricksters: jumping, turns, flips and yoga-like balancing poses. Climbing stores carry gear: webbing, carabiners and line lockers and costs about $50 to $60 depending on length. Regular slackers should replace webbing every three months. Set up takes about 20 minutes requires knowledge of knots – the clove, munter and girth hitches.

A perfect picnic or camping sport, ideal locations exist anywhere there are two trees large enough to hold your weight. A flat landing pad helps soften the fall. Beginners should rig a tighter line of 20 feet – tautness is a personal preference – maintaining enough elasticity to let the line bend in the middle. Low lines are at waist height to make it easier to get up from either a sitting or standing start. Getting on the line is the steepest learning curve.

Line ups for the next line up? Highlining at heights of 1000 metres…

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