What is Slacklining?
Slacklining (also known as slacking) is the act of walking along a suspended piece of flat webbing, specifically designed for this purpose. The webbing is anchored between two points such as trees, rocks, poles, etc., and is left relatively slack. This slack tension of the line creates a dynamic platform that bounces and stretches – just like a trampoline.
Slacklining can be seen as the ‘cooler, younger sister’ of tightrope walking – which uses a lot more tension on the line than slacklining does. This relatively new sport is taking the world by a storm. Slacklining is becoming so popular thanks to its versatility and fundamental simplicity, allowing it to be used in a variety of environments with minimal gear required.
Originating from the climbing community, it has grown in popularity from people with many different backgrounds. This has resulted in the evolution of different types of slacklining. For example, it has been incorporated into yoga routines, gymnastics, highlines (for the adrenaline junkies) and fitness workouts. It has shown to have several benefits to the user – such improved balance and core strengthening.
Slacklining gear consists of several parts. The main component is obviously the slackline itself. Slacklines can vary in both length and width. Slacklines vary in length from about 5m to the record-setting line of 1020m! Beginner lengths should be between 8 and 10 metres.
The webbing width has two general standards: the ‘1-inch’ and the ‘2-inch’. The former is the original type, but recently the 2-inch webbing has gained in popularity as it is great for beginners. In addition to the added stability of 2-inch webbing, it has less stretch to it. This gives it a springier bounce and can be set low to the ground – without risk of bottoming out!
To attach the line to the tree, it needs to be secured around in the form of a loop on either end. There are two types of setups: 2-section and 3-section. 2-section setups consist of the long slackline webbing, with a loop on one end that allows it to cinch around the tree or anchor. The other end of the webbing attaches via a ratchet to a smaller loop that goes around the opposite anchor. The ratchet is used for tensioning the line.
The 3-section setup is similar but it has two shorter sections that secure to the anchors on either end (known as tree slings) with the main line attached to each on either end. The great benefit of this system is that it allows for a variety of tensioning systems, which is a much discussed part of slacklining!
Trees are the most common type of anchors, particularly for beginners. The best trees are no less than 30 cm (12”) in diameter. This ensures that the tree will be able to handle the extra tension applied on it, reducing risk of breakage or damage.
However, anchors are not limited to trees. There’s a wide range of available anchors – anything from poles in the ground, lamp posts, boulders, and anchors specifically designed for the purpose. There are some good portable anchors available on the market, that let you set up anywhere at any length.
There are a few different accessories available on the market – many of them good additions to your setup. Tree protectors commonly used on tree anchors as they cushion and protect the tree from excessive damaged and strain. Guidelines, attached above the line, are a great tool for beginners to get their initial balancing right.
More advanced slackliners who rig up highlines need more additional gear such as safety harnesses, safety lines and helmets.