March 23, 2020

Slacklining 101: How You Can Learn the Exciting Sport

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Welcome to the biggest and most informative guide on slacklining on the internet, we hope to get you informed and excited to join the slacklining community! This sport has been exploding much more lately and has its history starting back in the 1980s!

So let us take a jump into the exciting sport of slacklining and see if maybe you would be interested in joining also. Unlike many sports this doesn't require a team, it is easy to play, single-player, sport. Somewhat similar to golf where you are competing against your previous bests to do better this time than you did last time.

What Is Slacklining?

Slacklining is akin to tightrope walking and is the art of balance and movement on a strap which is soft and stretchy and typically around 1" or 2" wide. This line can be suspended off the ground somewhere from 3 feet to 3,000 feet which is on fixed points between two split anchors points.

Slacklining is very similar to a tightrope walker, but instead of using a rope it uses a nylon-based slackline instead which is wider and flatter than the rope would be. Unlike a tightrope walker, a slackliner will not use any balancing object like a balance pole that you see frequently in tightrope walking.

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Still curious? Click here to find out What is Slacklining?

Where Did Slacklining Originate At?

This has been widely discussed and debated, much like any sport there is a great many people who claim to know the story behind the first slackliners. The most plausible origin though comes back to Yosemite National Park in the 1980s with rock climbers.

The basic premise of their story is that while they passed the time between ascent attempts the started to set and string lines with their climbing ropes between the trees and challenge themselves to make it across. This continued to escalate as people, not just climbers, started to push themselves higher and longer than ever before.

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What is the Point of Slacklining?

The point of slacklining at its very core is to challenge your balance and ability to walk long distances using only yourself for balance. It is about pushing yourself to your limits and to give you something you can work towards when time or room is short.

I have read from people that their love has come from the ability to practice multiple skills like learning to better their balance, learning how to focus on the moment while maintaining being relaxed, breaking personal self-imposed limitations, to enjoy and have fun being graceful, goofy, bouncy, spinning, dancing, and learning how to fall and that it is perfectly normal to fall.

Different Types Of Slacklines

There isn't a single specific way you must slackline, in fact there is a great many sub-genres to it. Each has different goals to the setup and results expected, some are about movement, some about bounce, but all are about enjoyment.

5 Most Common Types Of Slackline Set Ups

  • Lowlining - This is where beginners should start to gain skills and confidence. Find a beginner ratchet-strap setup with a wide 2" webbing. You will want to have this setup with high tension which helps to make the webbing stiff and much more stable and typically no more than 3 feet off the ground.
  • Longlining - This is typically defined as walking a slackline that is at least 100 feet or longer. When these long lines are to be set up the will often require a far more advanced pulley system that keeps the tension correct on long pieces of webbing.
  • Highlining - This is the most difficult and dangerous of all types of slackline setups. This requires your slackline to be rigged high above the ground. The issue with highlining is that any fall from the rigging will be at a minimum serious injury or death. This type of walk will typically require the use of a harness or similar tether to the line.
  • Tricklining - This is the art of performing aerial stunts while on a slackline. Tricklines use a different, more specialized, thin webbing that offers a springy trampoline-like effect. Most trickline setups are rigged close to the ground for safety as it is expected the slackliner has a high probability of falling off the line due to the maneuvers attempted.
  • Fitness Line - A fitness line is typically a short and wide slackline that is used in workouts that focus primarily on strength and balance training. Many times this style of line will be strung using slackline stands which allow for indoor use.

How to Learn Slacklining

The first thing you will have to figure out once you purchase your slackline kit is how to get started and not frustrated. There is a lot to learn when you get involved in slacklining regardless of the simple look it has when you see it in person.

You should have a plan which will involve learning how to properly set up the kit in between trees. The next big step will be learning how to successfully get onto the slackline. The final step in initial learning will be to learn to walk while on a slackline, once you have mastered this you can move onto more challenging skills.

Some Core Beginner Tips

  • Set The Line Low - Don't attempt to set the line high as you will fall a lot at the beginning and you want to make sure you can easily recover form a fall.
  • Make Sure Line Is Tight - Don't let the line be too loose when you start or you will have a great amount of difficulty controlling yourself while on it.
  • Add A Balance Aid - This may be as simple as having a partner walk with you to running a line above your slackline that you can grab onto when you feel yourself losing control.
  • Wearing Shoes - Many will counter with barefoot teaches you to feel the line better, but for a starter having shoes can give you a sense of protection that bare feet may strip away.
  • Focal Point Management - It is hard when you start to not look down the entire time but this actually confuses your balance system. Instead find a point in front of you and instead focus on that point and let your feet guide you.
  • Use Those Hands - When you start you may be focusing entirely on your feet which is normal, what you want to do is to start using your hands, they give you balance don't waste it by letting them hang down beside your body!

How to Get Better at Slacklining

Practice, practice, practice. There are many things to learn for slacklining but to get better the only thing that will tremendously help you is getting in more consistent time to practice all the movements.

Core Focuses To Build Slacklining Skill:

  • Persistence - Almost no one will be "good" at slacklining when they first start, it is persistence and continued practice which will give you the ability and skill.
  • Vary Line Width - Most people starting out will use a 2" strap, this helps to make it stable and good to start learning on but don't get lulled into only using this size, get smaller to get used to this. Varying your line allows your body to be consistently challenged so you can diversify your ability to balance
  • Balance Everywhere - Find opportunities to work on your balance even where no slackline is installed. Practicing with a different material can teach you to switch between different types of balance
  • Challenge Your Senses - Close your eyes or modify how your senses can take input in as this is used to manage balance. Something as simple as playing around with your arm position on the line can help you learn about how your body adjusts its balance
  • Listen and Learn - Watch others and be inspired by how they work while on a line and use it for inspiration to work on similar skills. Additionally, finding people to practice with will help you to build up more motivation while you can use each other to push your abilities to new levels.
  • Put Fears To Bed - Learn to use the fear instead of using it as an anchor which ties you down, using the fear to keep you in motion is one of the more difficult skills to hone.

How to Practice Slacklining at Home

There are many ways to practice at home, some will include a slackline setup, many others can use a rig, and a few can be done without anything being set up. When you have some time at home to get in more practice find the one which works easiest for you and get yourself out there!

Options To Practice Slacklining At Home:

  • Use a Kit - You don't need trees to slackline. You just need a couple of anchor points, and something to suspend the line off the ground. Enter the slackline stands & anchors kit.
  • Use Your Creativity - There are many creative ways to set up a slackline. If you are mostly in urban areas you will want to look at telephone poles, benches, or similar options. If you live outside the city then you could look into truck hitches, and boulders or other fixed points.
  • Purchase Self Support System - The Gibbon is a completely self-supporting system that can be set up inside and keeps the slackliner only a couple of inches off the ground.

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How Much is a Slackline Kit?

A good quality slackline kit can be as low as around $30 to $1000s and more. While this may seem crazy you have to think about the fact that with your needs comes higher quality materials and craftsmanship.

The reason for this is that when you are 1-3 feet off the ground it wouldn't be good should the equipment fail but it wouldn't necessarily be life threatening.

Now if you are highlining a mile above the ground then this story is very much different, a failure on the gear will be life threatening. This is why gear needs to be more expensive as your need for quality increases.

Most slackline kits will include the ratchet to tighten down the line along with many other pieces of gear like tree protectors, additional thickness straps, and more.

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Does Slacklining Improve Balance?

Slacklining itself is all about balance while using a wobbly line, sometimes this line is suspended a few feet or a few thousand feet up off the ground. Your ability to balance and maintain your stability are vital to high level performance.

Slackline helps to teach your body all the micro motions and movements to keep you upright on a very unstable surface. Teaching your body to use the stabilizer muscles that typically are much less used on solid surface walking.

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Is Slacklining a Good Workout?

When you start slacklining you will start to realize that what looks like balance and walking can be a quite intense workout. Balance is maybe one of the least focused on skills for people who don't compete in professional sports, but one that pays dividends.

When you try to balance yourself on an unstable surface, like a slackline, you have to bring in all the additional stabilizer muscles that are typically mostly idle.

When you engage these hundreds of micro muscles and ligaments you may not pay much heed while you are practicing. But for anyone not versed in using them much within a few hours to the next day you will find yourself incredibly sore.

In addition, this is a huge core and lower body workout due to the need to engage all these muscles for maintaining balance. If these muscles are weaknesses for you then you will see exceptional gains by working out on a slackline consistently.

Is Slacklining Like Tightrope Walking?

While on the surface the person slacklining will look very much similar to a person walking a tightrope they aren't the same thing. The closest they come to each other is in that of being on a line strung between two points which is traversed via walking.

Tightrope walkers have a much different set up than a slackliner to accomplish their similar goal. A tightrope walker will have a line strung tight with no sag in the entire length, additionally they have a pole that is used to help maintain balance and limit the side to side motion.

Meanwhile for a slackliner there is no stabilization on the line other than both end points, and the line will have a definite sag point towards the middle which will be more pronounced with the weight of the slackliner on it.

Slackliners will also only be using their body and arms for balance management, they will never be caught carrying a pole to manage their balance.

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Still curious? Click here to find out Is Slacklining Like Tightrope Walking?

What Is The Best Gear For Slacklining?

There is a large difference in gear which is necessary depending on the type of slacklining you do. We will discuss the gear which will give you success across the board while ensuring you are as safe as possible at the same time.

Gearing Out For Slacklining

  • Slacklining Kits - These are nice starter kits for anyone new to slacklining and is the ideal purchase for a beginner as you will get everything you need to start slacklining right away. With the slacklining kits there is no worry about equipment as your kit will provide it all.
    • Slacklining Base Kits - Beginner boxes
    • Highline Kits - More for the higher heights with stronger webbing
  • Climbing Rope - A key essential piece of gear that is needed when highlining is a good quality rope. Rope is needed for many different things and having strong, durable rope is a necessity.
  • Anchors - Anchors are important when you are highlining because they attach the webbing to the anchoring material. When you are purchase anchors you need to be sure that they are strong. Your anchors should have a strength in the range of 100kN or higher.
  • Carabiners - This gear would be for highlining. It is very similar to the equipment you would need for slacklining or rock climbing. Carabiners help to connect you with a rope or safety mechanism.
  • Harnesses - Harnesses are designed to protect and safeguard highliners. Most highlining harnesses come with adjustable waist strap and leg loops for quick and safe adjustments.
  • Brakes - A highlining brake keeps your rope locked in position and provides you your preferred walking tension. A brake is vital to your tension system.

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Still curious? Click here to find out What Is The Best Gear For Slacklining?

How to Protect Trees When Slacklining

When you start slacklining you will probably be excited and choose two trees and begin to set up your rig to get started. What you will notice over time, weeks maybe, is that the tree will start to show signs of wear which can permanently damage and possibly kill them.

Over time as these issues have started to crop up new gear came out which is focused specifically on being a layer that sits between your webbing and the tree to save it from taking the brunt of the forces.

In addition to protecting the tree from your slackline these tree guards help to protect your slackline and gear from damage the tree could do to them. There are plenty of stories online about how a tree broke the webbing by slowly wearing a cut through which could be very dangerous!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully we covered the questions that have struck you on your investigation into becoming a slackliner! Our hope is to help you get started and become successful to begin using simple outdoor diversions to help build your health and to get people back outside again.

Sometimes disconnecting from the world is the best thing you could do to give you clarity and to get an outside view. Sometimes just the act of breathing in the outdoor air as opposed to stale air in a building can give you tremendous mental relief.

We would love for you to join our Facebook group over here and subscribe to us on YouTube as we start to show you the benefits to outdoor diversions and show why you should take time to enjoy them and not be stuck inside.

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!