I’ve recently spend a lot of time learning the art of slacklining. After a few months of persistent practise (in the rain, wind and cold – note: winter is a terrible time of year to start learning!!) I started to get the hang of it – just in time for summer! I’m at the point now where I’m starting to playing more on the line and trying out some basic trick – i.e. walking backwards, bending down, turning – certainly nothing ground-breaking but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What’s so good about slacklining? I’m glad you asked.
- Firstly, you can literally do it anywhere. Pack the line and ratchet and, as long as there’s a couple of trees about 10-15 metres apart, you can set up.
- It’s sociable and everyone you’re with can have a go no matter when skill or experience they have.
- It’s great for core and general conditioning.
- And it’s really bloody fun!
Despite learning in the throes of winter, the appeal for me is spending a lazy summer day in a park with friends with the slackline and some ciders. We had a beautifully sunny Easter Bank Holiday weekend recently and I was, of course, out on the slackline and couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the day with my friends. I can’t wait to do more of it.
On that Bank Holiday trip we’d set up the slackline in a London park and another group of slackers set up camp next door. They were clearly very experienced (they were doing run ups to the line, jumping on to it and starting to walk. Ridiculous!) Feeling a little frustrated with my lack of progress I asked them for a couple of pointers. I was given a brief two minute low-down of the do’s and dont’s and, I have to say, it was an absolute game changer for me. With just a couple of changes to my technique my performance improved immeasurably over the course of just one day, so I thought I’d share my newly acquired wisdom with you:
LEARN TO BALANCE
- Firstly, learn how to balance – don’t try to walk before you can even stand. Instead balance one leg on the slack line for 20 seconds and then the other. This might take a while but once you’ve got this basic skill in place the rest will follow.
- Shoes or no shoes? I found it better to start without them, but it’s really personal preference.
- Don’t look down – instead focus on a single point straight ahead
- Bend your knees to lower your centre of gravity
- Keep your arms overhead – that means elbows above shoulders – and not out to the sides. The trick is to shift your weight from the sides with your arms (and legs) when balancing
LEARN TO WALK
1. Walk with your feet straight on the line and your hips, chest and head straight aligned – I’m a snowboarder and the stance I use when making turns is quite similar to the position for slacklingin
2. When the line starts swinging, bend your knees more to lower your centre of gravity and stabilise your body
3. Don’t push it – just be patient and take your time understanding the movements and how different positions affect you. This is all part of the fun.
4. Try to stay on the slackline as long as possible before you fall – it will really help develop balance and refine your skills
5. Having a friend walk alongside you and spot as you slack can be helpful for some people. I however, found that as soon as I was left alone I improved as I didn’t have a safety net to rely on.
6. Set the slack line further off the ground. Probably a controversial suggestion but the further I am from the ground the sharper my focus. If I can simply drop my toe to the floor to regain balance then I’ll rely on that – knowing that if you lose your balance there is no going back it makes you even more determined to stay on!