Have you ever watched tightrope walkers and wondered how hard it is? As it turns out its one of the many things that are as difficult as they look.
This balancing act shares a lot of similarities with slacklining but with a key difference.
Slacklining was tailor-made for climbing.
So What Is Slacklining?
So slacklining at its simplest is walking on a belt suspended between two points, usually trees.
But its so much more than that!
As the name implies the belt has some slack to it, the more slack the belt has the more times your probably going to end up eating dirt.
Slacklining was first made popular by a small group of climbers, inspired by circus acts they felt a burning desire to replicate the incredible feats of balance, and hopefully translate it into climbing.
From there slacklining has developed into its own sport with various athletes trying to find the limits.
Now slacklining might sound like super easy, But for most people, I included, find it super difficult.
This hasn’t stopped various styles from popping up, people are always innovating and looking for new ways to have fun.
The daredevils of the sport created highlining, which is slacklining but at an extreme height. Now most practice this with safety equipment, but some brave souls manage to pluck up the courage to go without, as tests to balance, willpower and just plain intrepidity.
Other styles that have popped up are yogalining and waterlining, but they are pretty much self-explanatory.
How Does This Help Me?
Walking across a belt knee-high doesn’t sound very hard right? Wrong. It’s actually incredibly difficult, in fact, your first 50 attempts tend to be taking a step, losing balance and falling.
However, stick with it and you will soon be strutting along wondering how you ever found it hard in the first place.
By now you have probably thought, “so how does this help with my climbing?”
Some moves in climbing have you on tiny holds with nothing but your own balance for company. and slacklining is an amazing way to improve your balance.
With the swaying belt beneath you, it is important to keep making tiny adjustments just to stay still, bit by bit you will get the hang of it and find your center.
All these movements and jerk may seem like nothing, but you are steadily building up a move set to help you traverse the impossible.
You might find yourself sucking in your gut while slacklining, but what you are actually doing is improving your core strength, this can have a huge impact on your climbing.
Not only does your core help you stick close to the wall, but it helps with dynamic and high tension moves. But these are just some of the reasons slacklining pairs up great with climbing.
I personally found slacklining super useful when coming back from a foot injury, it helped strengthen my ankle and kept my brain motivated with delicious progress.
I know some climbers that use it as a way to break up a session. It’s a perfect way to make use of the downtime while waiting for that fire in your arms to burn itself out.
How To Get Started?
Firstly you want to grab yourself a slackline, these can be picked up online or in some outdoor sports stores. There is a lot of choices out there, so for a complete beginner, I recommend a 2″ / 5cm line to start. That’s 0.1 cubits for all you ancient Egyptians.
Next is set up, find yourself two stable anchor points for your line. Trees are usually the best bet, but you can get creative in a pinch.
Despite the name, you’re going to want to keep the line pretty tight for your first few attempts, this will help you keep your footing and get used to the line.
Speaking of footing you have to make an important decision, shoes or barefoot.
Some swear by shoes, others promise barefooted is the way forward, but in the end, it’s completely up to you.
Right, So once you have your shoes off you’re going to want to get up on the line and give it a go!
The basic technique is to keep your hands raised and make small movements to keep your balance as you step across the line.
Don’t worry if you fall before even making a step, just get back up and go again.
A successful lap of the line comes after many attempts and failures, but at some point, something will click and the hard work will pay off!
Tips To Improve
The best way to improve at slacklining is just putting in the time. It’s incredibly frustrating at first, but if you stick with it you will be rewarded for the hard work.
There is no cheat sheet I can give you, but there are a few helpful hints.
Firstly you need to stop thinking about it too much, trust your body to react and save itself from falling. It might seem like a bunch of mumbo jumbo but it really does help!
Next, you want to keep your eye’s on the prize, Looking straight ahead instead of at your feet helps tie in with my previous tip. you just need to trust your body, if you are looking down while walking you tend to lean forwards., I don’t think I need to mention why this is bad for balance.
Alright, this last one might leave you feeling more than a little silly.
As you are making your way across the line you are going to want to lower your knees and throw those hands up, picture yourself as a gibbon or some other bendy legged animal if it helps. This lowers your center of gravity which makes it a lot harder to lose your balance and fall off.
Now, despite months of research bananas had no effect on my slacklining skills, don’t listen to anyone recommending it, complete hogwash.