I have always been fascinated by people who could walk across a thin line of rope. As a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing. I also thought it was something only “talented” people could do. In reality, it is something practically anybody can do, and you can start learning how to slackline in your backyard.
So, how to walk on a slackline? When you want to start slacklining, you first need to create a safe environment. Here are the first steps beginners should consider before ever stepping onto a slackline:
- Choosing the Right Slackline
- Picking a Safe Location
- Setting Up the Slackline Properly
- Learning to Fall Safely
- What to Wear
There is a lot more to slacklining than stringing a rope between two trees and climbing on. One needs to consider equipment, location, and what clothes to wear when slacklining. Only after following through on these steps can one tackle the art of slacklining.
Slacklining for Beginners
Let’s go a little more in depth on each of the steps we mentioned before.
Choosing the Right Slackline
Slacklines come in all forms. A beginner should not buy the same type of slackline that professionals and performers use. As you progress, you can look into other types of slacklines, but when starting out, you will want a slackline which is:
- Not Too Stretchy
- Less Harsh on Your Feet
- Wider (2-inch width for a broader surface area)
- Easy to Set Up
Picking a Safe Location
After you choose a good, beginning slackline, you will want to consider a place to set it up. Choose a clear space between two strong trees. These trees should be wider than a foot in diameter and at least 10-15 feet apart. A shorter distance gives you better stability. Remove any sharp objects or rocks in the area. A soft, grassy lawn or sand makes suitable ground. If the ground is still harsh, use old mattresses or “crash pads” to cover it. If there are no stable trees around, you can use poles or posts as long as they are completely anchored. Never use an object that you can shake or that moves when you walk on the line.
Setting Up the Slackline Properly
Now, you are ready for the setup. You will want to start low to prevent injury as you begin. Use your knee or upper thigh height as a starting point and create a tight line between the two trees. The less slack a line has, the easier it is to walk.
Do not forget to remove the line between sessions. This will protect the trees’ infrastructure and keep your line in good condition.
Learning to Fall Safely
To prevent injury, especially as you are starting out, having a couple of spotters is helpful. They can help you mount and regain your balance from the sides. Since you are starting with the slackline low to the ground, you can simply put a foot to the ground when you feel yourself losing balance. If, for whatever reason, you cannot fall to a standing position, try to fall away from the line. Getting hit by the line is painful. When you fall, rolling will help disperse the impact.
What to Wear
Wear comfortable clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty or worn. Nothing should get in the way of your feet, so long skirts and loose pants are out. Barefoot is best for getting a feel of the rope and developing balance. Still, if you choose to wear shoes, find pairs that are flat on the bottom like skate shoes.
Still Curious? Check out our Slacklining 101 Guide
5 Steps to Get from Ground to Walking
Once you have your setup complete, you are ready to mount the line. Here are 5 steps to get from the ground to walking on the slackline:
Place Your First Foot on the Line
Start in the middle of the slackline. Wobbling is less severe in the middle, and the slack brings you closer to the ground when you apply weight. Place your foot so that the line runs between your big toe and second toe down to the middle of your heel. The rope will wobble, and that is okay. Take deep breaths and stay relaxed to reduce the wobbling in your leg.
Choose a point to focus on, such as the rope anchor or the tree. Looking down at your feet or the wobbling line may make you wobble more. Looking ahead at a stable focal point will help you maintain your balance.
Keep your body upright and bring your arms out from your sides. Your arms should remain bent but at a wide position to aid your balance. Center your weight on your foot on the line and stand up on that leg in one smooth motion.
Keep the leg on the line slightly bent, and use your arms and the other leg to aid your balance. Your body will flail as you find your balance, but once you do, slowly return your arms to their original wide position, bring your body into an upright position, and find your focal point again.
Try Taking a Step
You should repeat the first 4 steps until you can maintain your balance for at least 15 seconds. Make sure to practice separately with each foot. When you can balance on each side, try taking a first step.
This will take time. Practice and repetition is key to learning this skill. Be patient. If you have to step off, go through each of the steps and try again. Rushing through these steps will only make them harder. Remember your body position, focus point, and don’t forget to breathe. When you succeed with one step, work up to two. It is not about trying to get in as many steps before you fall. Focus on balance at every point. If you can take a few steps, you should be able to walk the whole slackline.
Still Curious? Check out our Slacklining 101 Guide
If you struggle with balance, there are few other ways you can work your way up to walking on the slackline. A partner is always helpful. They can act as a kind of training wheel as they walk beside the line with you. They can also sit on the rope a few feet away from you to take away some of the bounce. Have them move progressively further away as your balance improves so you get used to the increased wobbling.
Here are some other ways to progress your slacklining ability:
- When you master mounting on your dominant leg, try mounting with your other leg
- Balance with both feet on the line at the same time
- Try walking backward
- Mount the line sideways (your shoulders parallel to the rope)
- Practice balancing sideways on each foot
- Practice turning on the line
How much do slacklines cost? A quality slackline kit for beginners can range between $40 to $150. More expensive kits come with useful accessories such as a “helpline” which runs above the slackline and provides a handhold for beginners to use in maintaining their balance.
What if I struggle to push myself up onto the line? If you struggle to push yourself up, you may need to increase your leg strength. Leg exercises like lunges and step-ups will help. Squats and deadlifts are also good exercises.