The line is taut, the leg muscles flexed, the mind cleared. Eyes are focused on the anticipated destination, while a bare foot takes the first step. Balance is found, and the walker thinks of only one thing: in slack I trust.
A collective group of CSU students have taken the initiative to bring their afternoon hobby to the next level. That hobby is slacklining – a sport of balance and moving meditation – and the next level is a club – one the group hopes will bring recognition and more people to the line.
Slacklining requires a desired length of webbing, two trees and three carabineers, making it a fairly low-maintenance sport as far as equipment is concerned. The webbing is tied around each tree, creating a line just tight enough to withstand a person's weight without touching the ground.
"It fascinated me how people could balance on a one-inch piece of webbing," said Daysha Williams, freshman health and exercise science major. "Once I started doing it, it cleared my mind and totally re-energized me. I'd have a whole new perspective in things after I was done. If I was having a bad day, I'd be having a better one."
The walker begins with one foot on the line and one on the ground. With a transfer of weight, the walker attempts to balance on the webbing and walk the line.
"Balance is important physically; the more you do it, the more you become balanced," said Josh Novak, junior speech communication major and future public relations director of the club. "Mentally it's pretty rigorous, and you have a tendency to get frustrated when you learn. The key is to train your mind to not have any expectations on the slack…Train yourself to accept failure and when you finally let go of that you do the best on it."
According to Slackline Brothers Inc., the sport of slacklining was developed in the 1980s when a pair of climbers began testing their balance on a parking lot chain. They were quick to set up a line of webbing and it stuck.
Slacklining has been growing in popularity since, reaching extreme heights up to 2,800 feet.
"It's addicting," said Megan Schoenecker, freshman environmental health major. "You know you can do it, but you got to work on it. It's so convenient and easy to set up that you should be able to do it, but it's really hard."
Participants set up lines of lengths varying from 20 to 100 feet. While they usually walk low lines in heights of two to four feet, they have set up lines as high as 10 feet before.
The method of walking not only requires physical strength, but mental motivation as well.
"You need a lot of small muscles that you don't ever really use so at first it's hard, but once you develop those muscles you get the balance on it," said Garrett Hartwell, sophomore construction management major and future president of the club. "It also takes mental sharpness and concentration…clarity to be able to block everything and focus."
Hartwell plans to submit the required registration paperwork this week. He said he anticipates the club will be official with a growing membership by the end of October.
If an increase in student interest occurs, members of the future club envision organized slacklining events and competitions both around campus and in other cities. The club has also set slacklining goals, currently vying for a slackline across Horsetooth Reservoir, requiring harnesses and a complex tightening system.
"(The club) will be a place where people can relax and have fun with slacklining," Schoenecker said. "If it's something students want to try this is a good way. It's another way students can connect with other students."
A major problem the future club faces is the lack of a place to slackline. Slacklining is illegal on campus and subject to possible trespassing and criminal mischief charges by campus police.
Novak said campus police have also cited slacklining as harmful to the trees, although with the use of tree protectors he claims they aren't harmed. As a result, the group took their hobby off campus to city parks, backyards and school playgrounds.
Novak hopes with an official club and possible safety waivers, slacklining will garner esteem and the school might designate on-campus areas where slacklining is legal.
"It's not something that's harmful; it's just like any other sport," he said. "It's silly that they wouldn't allow us to slackline because it might be dangerous, but kids can play football or hockey on campus, which I think is more dangerous than walking on a piece of webbing three feet off the ground."
Whether it's official or not, as long as the group of walkers find two trees in some dry weather, they'll walk the line for the sport they claim gives them relaxation and a sense of detachment from the real world. Hartwell invites everyone with an interest to take advantage of the future club's access to slacklining equipment and come "walk the line of life."
"My favorite thing is when people walk up and are curious about it and want to try it," Hartwell said. "It's a rare activity, and it's cool when you're good at something that not a lot of people can do. Hopefully someday there will be slacklining lines all over the place."