May 20, 2020

How to Learn Slacklining: Mastering the Basics for Enjoyment

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If you were considering picking up slacklining, for hobby or balance, it’s much more doable than it first seems. Learning how to slackline doesn’t require much in the way of prerequisites, though a level of sportiness is helpful, it’s far from a requirement. Thus, with the right precautions, you could learn to be a great slackline walker.

How to Learn Slacklining? The first tips that are critical to remember while you start are simple. The first is to keep the slackline length at about 8-10m, to always keep a spot/buddy on to watch and to keep your line only a few feet off the ground. All of these are good to boost confidence, safety and ensure that you’re learning effectively.

Of course, there are a lot more tips to ensuring your safety and fun when learning to slackline. Each of these critical steps above is a great start, but there is more depth to each step you need to be careful of.

How is Slacklining Different From Tightroping?

As the names suggest, it’s all about the tension in the rope. Slacklines will give under the weight of the individual, whereas a traditional tightrope will retain its shape regardless. The slack in the line creates a unique difference in the balance needed in slacklining. A good rule to remember when setting up a slackline is that at no point should the line touch the ground in the middle. However, tightening it more does not make it easier and is ill-advised, a “normal” slackline as a midrange tension of 50-300 daN approximately.

Where Should You Set Up a Slackline?

Typically, people set up their line between two trees. Start by finding two trees at a park, a forest, or your backyard that are close enough to set up a line between them. There are also other alternatives like “freedom kids” and frames and anchor kits that can be used if trees are not an option

When you are using trees, bring towels to place between the line and the bark. This helps protect the tree from developing wear and damage from sustaining the strain of the slackline and the weight of the user. Some kits come with tree guards, some don’t, but a towel works if not.

Remember, you want to keep yourself a few feet off the ground, so make sure the tree or the anchor kits are at the right height for your skill level. About knee-height is a good start to ensure you have enough give in the line without it coming to touch the ground at any point.

Learn More

Still Curious? Check out our Slacklining 101 Guide

How Do You Start Slacklining?

There are a few critical things you need to take into consideration before you even mount the line. The following is a brief list of things to consider while you start your journey to learn the slackline, including how to get on and what to d once you are. 

man slacklining in the park - How to Learn Slacklining

Clothes

This may seem insignificant but considering what you are wearing before you mount the line will become important quickly. You don’t want to wear loose-fitting pants or pants that hang over your feet. If that’s all you have, roll them up as far as you can to keep them out of the way. Loose-fitting or long pants can cause you to trip on the line.

Additionally, make sure you’re not afraid of getting these clothes a little dirty. You will be falling while you learn, so consider the dirt and stains you could acquire. As for footwear, you only need what you’ll wear while walking to where you plan on setting up your line. While actually walking the line, not wearing shoes is preferable.

Be Persistent and Build Muscle Memory

When you first start walking the slackline, your legs will shake. Typically, this goes away after the first few attempts, but for whatever reason, the first few will likely start with your legs shaking enough to throw off your balance. This is why you need to be persistent when you first start and acquire an assistant willing to help you across the first few attempts.

Once it becomes more familiar to you, and you gain comfort and confidence on the line, the shaking will stop. Though keeping the spot is still a good idea for at least the first few attempts on the line.

Learning to Mount and Walk

Mounting the line is the first few times will be a challenge. The skill of walking on a thin line is new and different for every individual. To start yourself up onto the line, put one foot on the line, the foot on the line should be pointed lengthwise down the line. From there, you need to pop up onto the line; this part will take a bit of work to learn, but think about it like a “bounce.”

Don’t stand sideways on the line; keep your feet consistently at a 90-degree angle to the line. Keeping both feet pointed down the slackline is hard and will take some practice to master but is essential to properly learning to walk the slackline.

Sitting on a slackline - How to Learn Slacklining

Keeping Your Balance

Akin to how you learn to ride a bike and spot it while dancing, keep your eyes fixed on one point ahead. Looking down at your feet while you walk the line will make you more likely to lose your balance or focus too hard on your balance and fall. This part is much like riding a bike, keep your eyes where you want to go on a fixed, unmoving point and trust your body to get you there.

Additionally, never get into the habit of lifting your foot to balance yourself. By taking one foot off the line to correct your balance, you take away half of your balance points and make it harder for yourself. The best method is to use your hands and arms, with little gestures like a simple bend of your arm or shift of your wrist, so you can learn to keep your balance with them alone.

Make Sure You Fall Correctly

You will fall while you learn to slackline, it’s unavoidable, but getting hurt is entirely avoidable. It shouldn’t be hard to land on your feet, but because the line has slack to it, you might find yourself thrown a bit from the line. This isn’t a bad thing, use the momentum of your fall to avoid being hit by the line and land away from any debris.

Remember, you’re barefoot, so when you realize you’re falling, try to avoid landing on anything that’s going to hurt. Additionally, you don’t want to come straight down on the line, so being “thrown” from it is preferable when learning to slackline for fun between some trees.

What Are Some Basic Tricks to Slacklining?

Once you’ve mastered the basics of walking the line, you may want to learn little fun tricks while you go. Here are some basic tricks that you can learn as a beginner once you’ve got the basic walk down,

  • Walking Backwards
  • Bouncing
  • Jumping the Mount
    • This is jumping forward or backwards down the line with either a running start or a bounce start depending on confidence
  • Butt Bouncing
  • Folding Your Arms

These are all considered beginner tricks that you can learn while you start gaining confidence on the slackline.

Learn More

Still Curious? Check out our Slacklining 101 Guide

Final Thoughts on How to Learn Slacklining

The slackline is a fun and inclusive sport for all skill levels. Though you by no means have to slackline across canyons or between mountains, there can still be great enjoyment in the smaller successes between trees and backyard setups.

Remember that balance is critical and learned while you go, and don’t be discouraged when you’re awful at first. Like every skill, slacklining takes a lot of practice even when you only want to learn it for fun. There are many basic movements to master while learning to keep your balance, but with persistence, you can gain confidence and start to have fun while learning.

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Article written by Josh Koop
I have loved to play outdoor games since I was a little kid, as I grew up I found more games and I also found out about alternate rules. I started Outdoor Diversions with Matt to help get this information out to everyone so they can enjoy these games as much as I do!