Tuesday, 19 October 2010

New Hobby - Slackline

You may remember me writing about the benefits of riding a unicyle as training for skiing. Pretty much any activity that develops good balance should be helpful in improving ski technique, since good balance is such a big part of skiing. Unicycling, Swiss ball excercises, wobble boards, balancing on a beam and even the Wii Balance Board (more on that in a future post) will all be useful in this respect. There is plenty more to be said about the importance of balance, but for now I want to talk about slackline.

For those who have not come across it before, a slackline is like a tightrope, but (perhaps stating the obvious here) not as tight. The idea is to walk on it, like a tightrope, and progress to various tricks. Since the tension is far lower than a tightrope (although still pretty tight) it can be set up more easily and cheaply. I have set up mine in the garden between two trees, but you can find plenty of footage on Youtube of the experts doing crazy tricks over gorges or between rock spires - something to aspire to perhaps. For now I'm still a beginner, but as you can see from the photo - taken whilst rock climbing in the UK Peak District - I can at least manage a low level line already (until I try to turn around anyway).

I was inspired to have a go at slacklining after seeing Jelena Schradi and Ingrid Laillaut de Wacquant slackline over the Arve river in Chamonix to promote their film 'Send it Sistah' (see below) at the Chamonix Adventure Film Festival in late August. I found it surprisingly easy to get started, but surprisingly difficult to be able to do it consistently well, even on my short line in the garden. It really is a great exercise for leg and core strength and stability and balance, as you are constantly moving and making adjustments to stay in balance.

I made my slackline from old climbing equipment and a couple of lengths of webbing tape which I picked up cheaply from climbing shops in Chamonix. If you don't happen to have spare climbing gear lying around you can buy a slackline kit, like these Amazon.com for example, or look at slackline sites like www.slackline.org.uk or www.slack.fr (in French) for loads of info on how to set up a slackline and where to buy the bits you need.