If you’ve ever hung around college quads, climbing crags or even public parks, you’ve probably seen someone with flailing arms walking barefoot across a one-inch-wide line of taut nylon webbing strung between two trees.
This is slacklining, a moving meditation. It forces you to narrow your focus, and everything falls away as you try to maintain balance and move across the line. Recent studies suggest that it can also improve core balance, help prevent knee injuries and aid in strengthening and rehabbing legs.
We met in my old ’hood, Trinity Bellwoods Park, which is home to the only four public slackline poles in Toronto.
I initially wrote this off as a circus discipline, but with each attempt I was able to make more progress, and suddenly I was hooked. The learning curve was steep and therefore addictive.
My instructor was Adam El Sioufi and two of his fellow Toronto Slackline board members, Adam Sanders and Henry Galas.
Though it’s not a necessity, El Sioufi recommended we start with some yoga in order to stretch to prevent injury and also to get out of our heads and into our bodies before attempting to do any slackline balancing.
There were three different heights of lines set up. Since it was my first day, we stuck to the lower height at three inches off the ground. The line itself was a two-inch-wide ratchet line. Dismounting or falling is best learned on lower heights, since dismounting off higher lines resembles something like aerial cartwheeling. With the first step, everything started to shake, and I fell off the line almost immediately. I felt completely inept, and the shaky legs were unexpected. This was challenging, both mentally and physically.
A basic slackline starter kit runs about $80, and then all you need is a couple of trees. Other types of lines are rodeo (high anchors and no tension), waterline (over water) and highline or midline, where they are harnessed in for safety.
The next day
This engages more muscles groups than you might actually realize. The arms and shoulders get lots of action since they’re your balancing apparatus. The quads are also always engaged as you don’t want to lock your knees.
Friends have left a slackline at our cottage, so I’ll be a slacklining ninja soon! Toronto Slackline meets Wednesdays at Christie Pits in spring and summer, at Trinity Bellwoods Park in fall, and at the Monkey Vault in winter.