Slackliners but not slackers

Nothing beats slacklining over the Northern California coast at sunset, right? Even if you’ve never considered it before, after watching this video you just might. Stay tuned after the clip for an interview with the filmmaker to learn everything you ever wanted to know about this relatively unknown outdoor activity, and also stick around for the incredible pictures of slacklining around the world.

Is tight-rope-walking-over-raging-waters a regular thing for you and your friends? How long have you been at it?

Although slacklining looks similar to tightrope walking, there are some huge differences. Where as a tight rope is a highly tensioned steel cable, probably about three inches in diameter, a slack line is a one inch wide strap that stretches. A tightrope is static, it doesn’t move, a slack line is dynamic and cable of movement in every direction. So where as one walks on a tightrope, one with a slack line. The line becomes an extension of your body, your breathing, your thinking and your spirit. If you’re tense or anxious, the line becomes tense and anxious and will shake and wobble accordingly. It’s like walking on a guitar string. 

slacklining

slacklining

Despite how it might look, slackline is about peace and calmness. I really don’t want people to see this as some kind of extreme, adrenaline driven sport — it’s not. That said, I’ve been slacklining for about three years now, and high lining has been a fairly regular activity in that time, but it ebbs and flows.

Did you have a solid idea of how you wanted the film to go before you started shooting?

I actually wasn’t planning on making a film of this. It was a last minute coastal trip to explore spots for slacklining, and I was planning on mainly walking lines instead of shooting, and I did spend a majority of time walking. My friend, Braden Mayfield, brought his RC heli setup and was playing around with it getting shots and some of them turned out so beautiful. Then we started talking about making an edit of the trip. We started really feeding off each other when we were shooting and it became a wonderful collaboration. The place was so beautiful, it was hard not to get excited.

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What are the particular challenges of a shoot like this? 

Well, because there weren’t any expectations going into it, I wouldn’t really say there were any particular challenges, even if we didn’t get any slack lines up the trip wouldn’t have been a failure because we would have scouted the area. But some of the challenges were that we almost didn’t get a line up because our drill bit broke when were building an anchor, and we had to drive 20 minutes north to thankfully find a bit at a hardware store.

I think the main challenges were probably for Braden getting the aerial images. He flew it in some moderately windy conditions which sounds like it gets tricky.

slacklining

slacklining

What gear do you use?

Canon t2i, and then Braden used a Go Pro and Quadcopter. Slacklining is very gear-intensive and highlining even more so. You have a line, anchor materials, pulley system, ropes, climbing gear if you need it. There is a whole analytical, mental component to this sport around the science of the equipment, how to use it in the most efficient and safest way, and the process of figuring out how to safely set up a line in a new environment. It’s an involved process.

slacklining

This is probably a good place to say that highlining, when the rigging is done properly, is an incredibly safe sport. If the rigging isn’t right, it’s lethal. It all depends on your equipment, how you use it, and how you are constructing the anchors in your environment. For probably 99% of highliners, there’s no intention to do anything dangerous or risky, if it wasn’t safe there is no way I would ever touch a highline.

slacklining

slacklining

If anyone reading this is looking to acquire some slack lining gear, Balancecommunity.com is without a doubt the best place in the United States to learn about and purchase gear. It’s run by Jerry Miszewski, who is the surfing equivalent to Gerry Lopez or Greg Noll, in the sense that he is both a pioneer of the sport athletically and as a designer of equipment.

slacklining

Why did you pick the Sonoma coast?

One of the most essential aspects of slacklining is some kind of visceral connection and interaction with nature, whether it’s a lush, gushing waterfall, a serene lake, jagged granite peaks, two trees at a park, or a rugged coastline like Sonoma. The slackline is secondary to the place, and slacklining is just one of many ways to deepen a relationship to that place. You’re not just looking at it, you’re really getting amongst it.

slacklining

A lot of slackliners, especially Braden, are always seeking beautiful and unique places to slackline. Finding a place to put a line is really like an art project. The Sonoma coast is just one of those places we all knew was incredibly beautiful and had potential amongst its jagged rock outcroppings. Braden just finished his work season and got a group rallied to scout this stretch of coast. I’ve learned to say “yes” to any trip Braden suggests (they’re always these missions to new places where you don’t know if you’ll be able to get a line up or not, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable, it’s a whole process).

slacklining

How long did you work on editing this piece?

I got back home last Saturday, then finished the edit late Tuesday night. So, four days, but I was working so I could only edit at night. I went through a few different versions and probably spent around 15 hours in total editing.

slacklining

If any readers are interested to get into high lining, how would you recommend they do that

Slackliners tend to be such supportive and open people and the best way to get involved with high lining is to meet other people who are doing it. This is a great resource to do just that: http://www.balancecommunity.com/Slackliner-Database

*Photos by Max Silver and Braden Mayfield


  • Mike Smyth

    some of the most beautiful cinematography I have ever seen!!