Nate’s a Slacker

Nate works at the counter at both RJ1 & 2. And for those of you who don’t know, Nate has a really cool talent – slacklining. He comes from a background of diving, and has turned that coordination and strength towards doing amazing stunts on a taut piece of 1″webbing. Following is a description by Nate of the sport he loves as well as some sweet videos of him in action.

Slacklining: a sport of balance, strength, focus, coordination, and often utter and complete frustration. For most, myself included, slacklining starts out as a sport of failure. I relate it closely to my first golfing experience; three hours fifty-nine minutes and 149 strokes of pure agony and miserable shots, yet, sixty seconds and one amazing stroke will bring you back again. The first day of slacklining might include 10 seconds of standing on the line, hardly balanced, for an hour of work.

For those who are not aware of exactly what slacklining is, let me break it down for you. It’s fairly simple really, take a long piece of 1 inch webbing, pull it REALLY tight between two points, and walk on it from one end to the other. In its basic form, it sounds quite easy really, but add the fact that the line will sway from side-to-side and bounce up and down and you’ll realize it’s not as casual as it sounds. Us ‘slackers’ also complicate it further by splitting the sport into four styles. A trickline is a slackline that is usually set up no longer than 30 feet and pulled extremely tight. The ‘trick’ part refers to the different actions that can be performed on the line. An advanced slacker can do jumps, spins, line tricks (sitting down, laying down, drop knees, levers, etc) as well as flips. These lines are the easiest to learn the basics on. A Gibbon line is a type of trickline, but has a 2 inch width. A long line is a slackline more than 60 feet in length and is much harder to walk. The longer the line, the more sway and bounce it has. The current longest line walked on record is more than 650 feet! A highline is a slackline that doesn’t have a set amount of length, but rather height. Highlines can be anywhere from 20 feet high to more than 3000 feet. One of the most popular US highlines is at the Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite National Park.

Most of my slackline training was done at RJ2, where they have a permanent 20 foot line set up. It took me nearly 3 months to walk across once and another three to walk one direction, turn around and walk back to the starting point. I started slacklining about four years ago, practicing for about 30 minutes at the end of my climbing session. Over the years I’ve managed to get my balance under control and am doing my best to help the sport evolve. You’ll often see me in the gym working on tricks that I never thought possible when I first started. To date, my favorite tricks are back-to-back 360’s, one-arm levers and backflips. Currently I’m working on a backflip 360 and a wallplant to 360.

People often ask me one of two questions about my slacklining: am I training for Cirque du Soleil or do I feel that slacklining has improved my climbing. To answer the first, no. Though I’m not sure I would turn down an offer to be in their show. To the second I answer possibly. Slacklining is directly related to balance and core strength, both important in climbing as well. I assume, that over time as my balance and core strength have increased, my climbing has improved. However, I did not and have not noticed a direct relation to slacklining and climbing.

Another topic that is often discussed with new slackers is, “How do you do it?”. The main part of slacklining is practice, practice, practice. As far as technique goes, try to keep your core tight. Really flex your abs as you walk, keep your body upright, and maintain a tight yet flexible tension throughout your body. The last point is one that is hard to really explain and understand. You want to keep your muscles tight so they don’t shake (especially in the legs), yet you still need to be able to walk normally and counter the effects of the moving line. The goal is to keep your center of gravity directly over the line. This means you’ll need to move your arms, legs and waist to keep balanced. If you feel your torso start to fall off to the right, for example, thrust your hips out left, and even kick your left foot out to pull the weight of your torso back over the line. This is a complicated and difficult skill to learn, but with enough practice you’ll soon be walking the line like second nature. After you get the balance down, the first thing you’ll want to learn is how to turn around once you get to the end. After that, just let your personal style and skill decide where to go to next.

And of course, if you see me in the gym I would be more than happy to help you on anything slackline related.

If you would be interested in a slacklining clinic, just let us know and we’ll put it together. Just contact us at tricia@rocknandjamn.com.

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