Extreme slacklining trends through B.C.

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Reported by Chelsea Powrie

The extreme sport of slacklining continues to be popular in B.C., converting new followers and inspiring enthusiasts to take the practice to dizzying new heights.

Slacklining is like tightrope walking, but the rope isn’t taut. It involves stringing a piece of specialized flat webbing, around two inches thick, between two anchors — trees, poles, cliffsides, or whatever’s around. Then, a person attempts to keep their balance and walk the length without falling.

2016 world Slacklining competition took place in Munich

Slacklining competitions exist throughout the world. In 2016, the World Slackline Masters was held in Munich. Competitive slackliners also vy for world records for longest and highest lines.

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Professional slackliner Spencer Seabrooke walks the highline at the Chongqing Highline meetup in China on October, 2016.

Spencer Seabrooke is the former world record holder for longest highline without a harness, 64 metres at 290 metres elevation, and is also the owner of local company SlacklifeBC. He just finished the “Turkey Boogie,” a yearly gathering in Moab, Utah, that involves highlines and space nets, which are large nets in midair that people base jump from. Now, Seabrooke is heading home to focus on his business.

“We want to get some sort of indoor warehouse where we can teach people slacklining,” Seabrooke said.

Slacklining not accessible in the winter

Slacklining slows down in winter due to weather conditions, so Seabrooke uses the time to recharge after a busy season. He travels frequently to highline in extreme locations, including the highest line he ever walked, which was in Yosemite National Park.

“Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite is about 4,000 or 5,000 feet above the valley floor. So it feels very cool to walk on,” Seabrooke said. “And the first time anyone rigged a highline was there. So it’s also an iconic piece of history.”

Xavier Vivas, the owner of Absolute Slacklines Vancouver, has seen a steady increase in business since he opened five years ago. He says slacklining isn’t for everyone, but for certain people, it is addicting.

“Someone has to be a little bit brave and courageous [to slackline],” Vivas said. “People try sometimes and they are just not so driven to continue.”

An addictive hobby

Braden Holt, an education student at UBC, first encountered slacklining on campus and quickly became hooked, despite it being difficult to learn.

“There were some weird people walking on floppy ropes and I said ‘That looks fun can I give it a try?’” Holt said.

“I didn’t want to be beat by this ten meters of two-inch wide slackline, I wanted to beat it. And once you do that one there’s a longer one.”

Holt now owns his own slacklining gear, and has successfully walked a 90-metre line.

“When you’re well balanced on the line, you feel so calm, like you’re meditating. It’s part of why people get addicted,” Holt said.

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