March 29, 2020

Where Did Slacklining Originate?

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If you are interested in slacklining you will probably develop an interest in the history and origins of the sport. As with most sports, this history wasn't well documented at the time as it wasn't ever intended to become anything other than a way to pass time.

Where did slacklining originate? While many conflate the tightrope walking and rope walking with slacklining they have almost nothing in common. Slacklining originates in the rock climbing world in Yellowstone as a way to manage time between climbs. Slowly this grew into the slacklining that has become so popular.

We can dig into history with greater detail and help you to speak more confidently if anyone should ask you about the history of slacklining. We will continue to explain how it rose to become so popular and made the transition from a way to pass time between climbs to its own sport.

The Origin Of Slacklining

Somehow when you discuss origins for slacklining a lot of people look at tight roping and similar "walk a line" styled sports and hobbies. While they appear similar on the outside, they are vastly different from each other as tight ropes and other types of "rope walking" you have a balance bar and a perfectly tight rope.

Slacklining as it is now has a few "origin" stories but the one that is most agreed upon is traced back to Yosemite National Park back in the 1980s. The basic story is that the rock climbers who frequent the area would have long downtimes when others were ascending the cliffs.

So to pass the time they strung up a line between the trees to see who could balance the longest. Then this became walking end to end and continued to grow in overall challenge levels over time as people mastered the skills.

This all led up to the Yosemite's Lost Arrow Spire attempt to Highline a 55' long piece of webbing by two who would set the bar for everyone else to come. Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington attempted to cross this gap on a thin piece of rigging, they were not successful but served as inspiration and motivation.

Learn More

Still Curious? Check out our Slacklining 101 Guide

The Expansion and Rise Of the Sport

Over the years since the first slackline walks in Yellowstone, the sport has continued to grow. There have been continued events to cross longer and higher slacklines after the initial 55' was successfully crossed by Scott Balcom in Yosemite Valley.

The awesome feat of crossing the 55' didn't make the world explode at the time but it set the stage for others to hear about the niche and to bring on challengers to push the envelope.

The sport grew when other athletes like Andy Lewis and Dean Potter brought it more to the mainstream. The more the slackliners appeared in magazines the more people were beginning to talk about it and it built an audience and the audience helped build additional followers building a cycle that grew the sport.

The sport once again accelerated with the introduction of a simple to use ratchet setup with the strap which helped the normies (you and I) be able to set the lines up without advanced knowledge of rope climbing gear like climbing knots, carabiners and more.

Slackline in backlight - Where Did Slacklining Originate

Cottage Growth

The sport began to really take off around 2007 when the small companies like Gibbon, YogaSlackers, and Slackline Industries all started growing and producing slackline kits specifically for sale to the normal people of the world. This rise in production would help to drop the prices down dramatically and lower the bar for entry.

These companies are all helping to expand the visibility of the sport and introduce new people to the fun and excitement of slacklining. The cool thing about there being the explosion in growth is that this continues to help drive innovation and has continued to drop the overall expenses related to purchasing a slacklining kit.

Learn More

Still Curious? Check out our Slacklining 101 Guide

The Webbing Evolution

As the sport has evolved the webbing has matched suit and changes to facilitate additional methods of slacklining. These changes have given the webbing much better strength through weave patterns and materials.

The materials becoming better quality have allowed for changed the world of slacklining allowing for much longer line runs and stronger tensions. The combination of this has grown the methods of use along with different types of slacklining uses.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this wasn't too much a history less but more a start to get excited about adding yourself to the list of people who have worked hard to make the sport as popular as possible, check out our Slackline 101 post which gives you much more details!

Take time to learn all the forms of slacklining as the one you start with may not be the one you will love the most. Among the different types, they range from waterlining, longlining, acrolining, and highlining which has consistently grown in popularity.

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!