How to Start Slacklining
So you want to start slacklining, but don’t know where to begin? Look no further, we’ve put together a guide that’s designed with the beginner slackliner in mind!
The first step to starting slacklining is to organise yourself a slackline – or access to one. You can either join a local slacklining club/group or find a friend with a line. Lots of institutions (such as universities) have fun days where you can participate in their slacklining events for free.
If you think you’re going to be serious about slacklining, we recommend that you purchase your first slackline. This lets you practise when and wherever you’d like to, at a pace that suits you and your needs. Owning your own slackline is the only you’ll make any serious progress in the sport, as waiting for your turn on a communal line is both slow and frustrating.
We have a guide to choosing your very first slackline for beginners here. We recommend that your first slackline is relatively short (8-10m) and close to the ground as you’ll be falling a lot in the beginning! Make sure that the webbing is relatively wide (preferably around 2 inches) as these are more stable and suited to beginners.
How to Dress
Comfort is key, but maneuverability is even more important. Wear loose fitted clothing, or active wear that will permit the full range of motion that you will most certainly require for this hobby.
Some people like to wear shoes, but we recommend that you go barefoot. It is generally easier to balance barefoot – and you can feel exactly where you’re standing on the line! It also reduces wear and tear on the line, which will happen over time.
Choosing Your Anchors
There are a huge variety of possibilities when it comes to setting up anchors. You can purchase and use specifically designed anchors, or find pre-existing structures (e.g. trees) to set up on.
For beginners, we recommend finding two trees in your garden or park to use. Trees are certainly the most popular anchors, and for good reason. There’s lots of varying tree distances to choose from.
As mentioned above, we recommend that you find two trees that are spaced between 8 and 10 meters (26-32 feet) apart and no less than 5 m (16 feet). This ensures that the slackline will be relatively stable, making it easier it learn on. IMPORTANT: make sure you find a tree that’s 30 cm (12”) or more in diameter so that it will be guaranteed to withstand the extra strain. We suggest that you use tree protectors as not to damage the tree you’re using.
Setting Up the Line
Follow the accompanied instructions when setting up your line. There are a variety of styles and techniques used to do this, so follow the manufacture’s recommendations.
The most common method used entails a ratchet that’s attached to a short length of line that loops around the tree. Through this is fed the main length of webbing (the part you’ll balance on). The main line can be attached to the other side either by looping itself around the tree or attaching to a second, ratchet-less length of cord that also loops around the tree.
Once the slackline is set up correctly, it is time to start learning. There are a variety of techniques and tips that can help you with taking your first steps.
Learning to Balance
The first step to this is literally that. You will need to practise being able step onto the slackline without falling off immediately. Use a guideline accompanied many kits (or make one yourself) to hold onto. A guideline is not designed to hold your weight, but rather to assist your balance in the beginning learning stages.
Another option is to use a dedicated friend that can hold your hand. It’s a great idea to find a buddy that you can learn together with.
It helps starting on one of the ends of the slackline, as it is more stable closer to the anchors. Once you find a sweet spot – stick to that place and let your muscles memorize how to balance there.
Your First Steps
Once you’ve managed to keep yourself on the line for a few seconds without falling off, start practising stepping forward. The key here is not to look down. This will throw your balance off, causing you to fall. Rather, find and focus on a point on the opposite end of the line. This can be anything from a crack in the tree, or leaf on the ground.
To take your first step, bring your hind foot forward, brushing the line as it goes passed your front foot and place it back on the line. This all should be done whilst focusing on the point in front of you. Repeat this and in no time you’ll find yourself walking across the entire line.
If you fall off in the middle in the beginning, don’t worry. This is completely normal, the middle of the line is the most unstable and will take a bit of time to get right.
By practising the outlined tips above here, you’ll soon be crossing the entire line unassisted in no time at all. Once you have got this basic skill under your belt, you’ll be able to start learning the cooler tricks that everyone wants to do!