I consider myself a somewhat athletic guy. I played t-ball when I was six, and soccer when I was nine. I've scored multiple touchdowns in my in-laws' Turkey Bowl, and I've scored as many as 12 points in intramural basketball games.
So when my editor told me I was participating in and writing about a slacklining activity, I felt pretty confident.
“Wait, what's sacklining?” I asked. The description she gave me was that it is “kinda like tightrope walking; and it's SLACKlining, not sacklining.”
Feeling moderately educated, I entered the Hart Fieldhouse Friday night to try my hand at this new sport. Even before I introduced myself, I was asked to sign a waiver. That usually makes me pause. Phrases like “hypothermia,” “broken bones” and “assumption of risk” are not comforting.
But I pushed aside my fears and signed the paper. It was time to man up.
To slackline, you need a few feet of tubular webbing (much like a seatbelt strap) and some carabiners (used in rock climbing, as well). You'll also need two solid poles to attach each end of the webbing to. In the Hart, they use volleyball poles, but people frequently use trees.
There really isn't a set goal in slacklining; initially, the idea is to be able to stay on the line and move from one pole to the other. Once you're skilled at that, you can do tricks like frontflips and 180-degree turns.
The slackliners had set up three lines by the time I arrived, and people were already traversing them with confidence. Noticing the bare feet of everyone else there, I took off my shoes and socks and casually sauntered up to the red line.
I heard many suggestions: “Keep your eye on the opposite pole,” “Keep your ankles strong,” “Use your arms to balance.” It looked easy enough, though it was obvious some students with less experience couldn't take more than a few steps without falling.
I approached the line and put my right foot up on it. Immediately the line started swaying like a drunken Britney Spears. I managed to get all my weight on it, but before I could bring my left foot up, I lost my balance and fell.
Repeat this scene about 20 times over the next 45 minutes, and you have the extent of my slacklining prowess. I tried concentrating on a point on the opposite pole, but then I couldn't see where my left foot was supposed to go. But if I didn't focus on the opposite pole, I'd lose my balance almost immediately.
Slacklining is tricky.
And let me tell you, it stings when your toes get caught up in the line as you're falling off of it. I learned quickly to jump free once I lost my balance, lest I lose a pinky.
My best performance was taking one step after getting up on the line. Eventually, I came to the realization that I'm not a natural slackliner. And that's okay.
I'll always have traditional sports, like badminton.
If you're interested in slacklining, they set it up every Friday from 5-7 p.m. in the Hart Fieldhouse.