34 New Things: Try Slacklining

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some are easy, some are difficult, some are so ridiculously mundane. You can read about previous adventures here.


When you’re embarking on something new and potentially dangerous, it’s probably a good idea to do so without the help of an expert, right?  Maybe just watch a video tutorial, like, twice and decide that’s good enough, right?
That wouldn’t necessarily be your approach?  Weird.
That isn’t my usual approach either but when I put out the call on Facebook for Slacklining Experts, all I got was a lot of “I don’t know how but let’s learn together!” responses.  So Meredith and I were left to Youtube and what she remembered from That One Other Time She Tried.
And oddly?  I didn’t die or break any of my bones!  Not even one!
Slacklining is a sport of sorts, usually executed by 22-year-old stoner dudes.  I imagine there’s a lot of cross over between dudes who play hacky sack, love Phish, and can slackline (maybe that’s why none of my friends know how?)   It’s essentially tight rope walking, very close to the ground, on a wide nylon strap. When people do it well, it looks easy.
Surprisingly enough, it is not actually easy.
From my video watching, I knew that the first time anyone puts their foot on a slackline, you should expect your leg to tremble uncontrollably   It’s just the tiny muscles in your leg adjusting to something they’ve probably never felt before.  Even though I knew to expect this, it still felt bizarre to place my foot on that wide red strap and watch my leg convulse.
“Stop it,”  I said to my leg.
For the next ten minutes, my leg convulsed and I hopped awkwardly, struggling to even get my left foot an inch or two off the ground.  I tried to make Meredith take a turn, but she begged off and I decided I’d hop awkwardly for another 10 minutes and then give up.  Instead of focusing on my feet, I started focusing on our conversation and catching up on each other’s recent shenanigans.
And of course (as with most things in life) the moment you stop obsessing, you’ll achieve what you were after.  Five minutes into a conversation on the merits of RAGBRAI, I was balancing on the strap for 10-15 seconds at a time and even switching feet a little. So fun!
While I’m certainly not destined for slackline greatness anytime soon, I’d be happy to try it again and even work up super exciting tricks like WALKING THE LENGTH OF THE ENTIRE LINE.  It was a great reminder that the distance between I-want-to-give-up-beginner and I-can-kind-of-do-this is often much, much shorter than we think.
And that, dear friends, is the life lesson I learned from a red nylon strap.
Have you ever tried slacklining?  How long does it take you to get from awful to mediocre at new things?  And when do you usually give up?  (My answer: waaaaay too soon.)

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  1. Maggie

    It's one of those things I've always wanted to try. I have some leftover Amazon credit and a new "why wait" attitude… maybe I'll order a line this weekend and recruit my boyfriend to try it with me! Looks so fun!

  2. Ben Simon

    Two things:

    1) I initially misread your headline as: "34 New Things: Try Slacking" — and thought only you could pull of a "slacking" as something to "try." Perhaps you should add it your list of 35 things ;-).

    2) I'd never heard the term slacklining before. But I just stumbled over this video where a couple of crazy French guys do death defying stuff, including walking what I now think is a slackline. You may get a kick out of it, what with all your experience and all.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Haha! I'm nearly incapable of slacking 😉

  3. Alinor

    this is so cool, i love your 34 new things list and how it feels like you can learn so much even from little random adventures!

  4. Metamorphocity

    I always stare wistfully at the people slacklining in my favourite park on any given day. It looks like such a fun challenge, and one of those things I'm convinced (without any reason to be)I'd be stellar at. One of these days I'm going to have to get up the nerve to ask if I can play too!

    Your photos are so adorable!Love that first one.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      You should try it! It's not that hard and super fun!

  5. Nikkiana

    Funny that this would come up… I saw some people doing this at MIT when I was there for a wedding over the weekend and wondered what it was. Now I know!

  6. Marian

    This looks like a lot of fun. A girl that I went to summer camp with did slacklining and she let people try it, but sadly I didn't get the chance. Maybe someday!

  7. Anonymous

    Great blog! But just wanted to clarify, that slack lining is not a sport usually executed by 22 year old stoner dudes…perhaps that was just your introduction to it, but it's more often than not, used as a core-strength building exercise by rock climbers on their rest days when they want to keep training and build their core strength. Cheers!

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