The red strip of one-inch webbing was stretched 100 metres across two cliffs in a Norwegian fjord, 2000 metres above the valley below. The group of guys who strung it up had an audacious plan. Not only would they walk across it, but then stop in the middle, jump off, freefall for a few seconds, pull the parachute, and float down to earth.
This insane combination of slacklining and BASE jumping is the driving force behind “I believe I can fly”, a documentary film we came across a while ago, the trailer for which you can find here.
This film was our first introduction to the world of slacklining. Although this group of largely fearless French men take it to extremes, the film begins in a most accessible, unthreatening way. A slackline strung up about a metre above the grass in the Champ de Mars in Paris. It looked as though this was something anyone could try, even though mastering the skill seemed far-fetched, to say the least.
Only a few weeks later we happened to be strolling through a local park and we noticed a few guys setting up some slacklines. After a friendly smile and a quick introduction, the slackliners were eagerly giving us a few pointers and urging us to get up on the line and give it a try.
We can’t lie. It was hard. Really hard. The line is springy like a trampolene. Put your foot on it and push down, and the line laughs at you, and throws you off. Try again and the line does the same and throws you in a different direction. Repeat this a hundred times.
However, like many things in life, persistence pays off. It wasn’t that long before we could stand on the line for a few seconds. Then it was possible to take a step. Getting the hang of it would take more than a day, but after the short introduction, we were hooked.
Will we be stringing up a slackline over a fjord anytime soon? Almost certainly not. But in the local park or backyard? We do. Just being able to take a few steps on it is exhilerating. Being able to walk all the way across the line makes you feel like you just conquered the world.
CAVEAT: If you’re interested in trying slacklining, please consult experienced people first. Setting the line up can be dangerous if done incorrectly, and care must be taken to protect trees if you use them as anchors. If there’s a rock climbing community where you are (or a climbing gym), chances are you will find some experienced slackliners there.