Perhaps you’ve been traipsing around the beaches of Thailand cavorting with acrobats and rock climbers while sipping on Chai tea and you have a slackline in your backyard between two of your live oaks.
Maybe none of that has happened (yet) but it smacks of something you might fancy. If you’re ready for a new physical challenge that’s more addictive than doughnuts from Glazed and way less steamy than hot yoga, take a look at slacklining.
A slackline might sound like sailing lingo until you’ve encountered the sport, which is decidedly less associated with dark and stormys, for better or worse. It’s as simple as stepping up and balancing on a thin 2-inch nylon strip and as complex as maintaining total mental focus and control over your body. The line is bouncy like a trampoline and way less scary than a tightrope, not that it won’t make your knees shake like a leaf while trying to keep upright. You will surely flail your arms as you tap into your core strength to balance, but this flailing looks more like an exquisite dance when the fluttering stops and stability arises.
The modern sport has its roots in the rock climbing scene but it requires little gear and boasts a performance aspect for more social climbers. Here in the lowlands, surfers, skaters, gymnasts, dancers and yogis could all apply their balance skills and muscle memory on a slackline, but it’s just starting to pop up in Charleston.
Animator Joel Schooling bought a slacklining kit at Half-Moon Outfitters in May and has been soaking up the lowcountry splendor and utilizing the solid trees of Hampton Park to practice his skills. Setting up the line only takes a couple of minutes using the hand crank that’s part of the $60 kit.
Like skateboarding, people develop tricks and make it up as they go, in the name of fun. According to Joel, you can’t be worrying about bills while you are on the line, or you’re going to fall. This meditative aspect is part of the draw of slacklining and what has led to Yoga Slacklining, of course. Thrill-seekers and acrobatic types use the tension and spring in the line to get height for jumps, earning the ‘trickliner’ moniker. Hippies hula hoop or juggle rings of fire on the line to get their yayas out and turn it into an art form.
Joel isn’t trying to be a poster boy but he is an advocate of the slack life and encourages his friends and “responsible adults” to join him. He claims that it’s like being ten again. He shouts, “”I’m superman!” after a jump, demonstrating the childlike enthusiasm that happens when we’re really having fun.
As he takes down the line, Joel recalls Thoreau’s quote, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” He smiles all clearheaded-like.
Slackers: seeing the way since 2012.