Walking the line
As a gentle breeze rustled the leaves, bemused and curious passers-by looked on as slackliners jumped and bounced, laughed and talked.
Kuya Takami, a mechanical engineering student and club president, likes exploring the possibilities of slacklining. “The appeal for me is staying on the line and enjoying, you kind of get addicted, and you don’t even realize how time passes.”
Free from the ground, yet connected through the trees, slacklining, as the name implies, is similar to tightrope walking, only on a line that has slack in it. The sport originated with rock climbers who balanced on climbing webbing for strength and agility training.
A slackline is stretchy and forgiving. Most slacklines are made of flat, 1-inch-wide nylon webbing of varying lengths. The line is pulledtaut, either by hand with a group of people doing what appears to be tug-of-war, or with a winch. As the sport’s popularity continues to rise, 2-inch-wide trick line kits have become popular.
Some slackliners, or “slackers” for short, like to push the possibilities. Some treat it as a trampoline, jumping, spinning, flipping and dangling from a narrow band.
The sport has been gaining in popularity, and nationally known slacker “Sketchy” Andy Lewis was a featured performer during the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show.
By anchoring the webbing a few feet off the ground, the line provides a safe but challenging balance and agility workout. On the Drillfield, slackers took extra care not to damage the trees they value for their sport by placing padding on the tree trunks to protect the bark.
The Virginia Tech club, an informal club that started online in 2011, has about 70 members and meets most Friday afternoons.
“As the line gets longer, you have to concentrate even more, and then you’re like in the zone. I think you actually increase your sense of concentration and balance.” says Takami.
Takami recommends that beginners keep 80 percent of their balance on the ball of the foot and 20 percent on their heel. “Some people take to it quickly, most people take about two months of practice to stay on the line. You would be surprised how much change you will see in yourself. And how quickly you develop balance,” he said.
Takami enjoys the club’s community and how the sport brings people together. This summer they hope to organize a few trips and try a splash line — a slackline over water— and a high line with a safety leash.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8620
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