Practice, Practice, Practice!!!

Today’s video demonstrates a few moves to practice. I made this video for my cousins who are progressing nicely in their slacking careers! The video shows a chongo mount, a middle of the line squat, kneeling on the line, and a squat in “exposure” (facing out perpendicular to the line).

 

Enjoy!!!

Kicking Off the Season Right!

Although we’ve had a ton of rain (that we need) these past few weeks, the sun came out today, YAY!!  I thought it appropriate to get out ‘Le Petit Dragon Vert’ and start the season off right. Set the Dragon to 115 feet (35m) and had an hour or so of practice. The video for today shows one of my early attempts to walk. Later in the day I was able to get about half way across, but it is clear that I need way more practice on this type and length of line.

Bring on the Summer!!

Upgraded Slackline A-Frames: New Design to Hold the Line Steady

My first set of Slackline A-Frames work fairly well. I’ve set them up and used them multiple times so far. However, one thing became clear after I started using them with people who do tricks – the ends of the Slackline are not held static where it passes over the A-Frame. This is an important feature to have: a steady, non-sliding line. I came up with a way to add the feature to my A-Frames.

IMG_2741First, I’ll describe the problem. As shown in the above photo of the original design, the Slackline passes over a piece of 1/2″ pipe. The pipe is 12″ long or so, and there is nothing to prevent the Slackline from sliding sideways (left to right). This happens predominantly when a slacker on the line does a move called “surfing”. They kick their legs out sideways and swing their feet back and forth in an oscillating motion. This action causes the Slackline to slide back and forth on the 12″ piece of pipe. The biggest downfall of this is that it abrades or melts the line just at the point where it crosses over the pipe. In addition, it makes for non-static ends on the Slackline. This is opposite of a tree-based Slackline, where the ends do not move left to right when in use, even while surfing.

The solution I came up with is fairly simple to implement. and can be made of parts from a hardware store. First, I made two of the U-brackets shown below. Each U-bracket is made from 1/2″ black iron pipe and some fittings. Each one uses the following parts:

  • four 90 degree elbows
  • two 4″ nipples (although any length under 6″ is OK)
  • one 3″ nipple
  • two 2″ nipples.

The only critical part is the horizontal 3″ nipple. The goal is to have 2″ (width of the Slackline) between the two 90 degree elbows once they are screwed onto the 3″ elbow. I was able to get the elbows to screw in 1/2″ on each end of the elbows, leaving 2″ for the Slackline. I used parts that I had laying around as well as pieces I bought at the store. Screw all the pieces together so they look like the picture below*.

IMG_3615

The second thing I did was drill two more holes in the top of each A-Frame to accommodate the U-bracket. These are 7/8″ diameter holes, to accept the 0.840″ outside diameter of 1/2″ black iron pipe. The holes go all the way through the plywood and the 2×6 legs – that way you can use longer nipples if you prefer (instead of the two 2″ nipples).

IMG_3616

The picture below shows the solution in use. The whole idea is to create a channel where the Slackline sits as it goes over the iron pipe. As you may notice, the channel I have created isn’t quite 2″ exactly in width. That is mostly because of the way black iron pipe is put together. Threads at the joints of black pipe are tapered. For industrial applications, fittings are screwed together until the tapered threads seal together. The joints are not an exact science, so the fittings don’t always end up completely seated, or even seated by the same amount. This is one flaw in my design, and it means I need to tighten my fittings a bit more (one or two turns, by the looks of it).

IMG_3612

 

In any case, the idea was to use off the shelf parts to create a steady point for the Slackline to pass over the A-Frame. Here is another picture of the setup in use.

IMG_3614

Of course, the length of all of the pieces of the U-brackets can be adjusted to fit your needs. As long as the Slackline clears the top of the A-Frame, things will be fine. I should probably shorten the 4″ nipple to reduce the leverage the U-bracket has on the A-Frame itself.

Hope you get the idea.

*You may have noticed that my 3″ nipple going horizontally in the U-bracket doesn’t quite look like a piece of black iron pipe. This is because I milled the 3″ nipple to remove the extra threads present once the 90 degree elbows are tightened to this nipple. You can get around this by wrapping the 3″ nipple with duct tape, or possibly by filing the threads down by hand. Otherwise, the threads will cut the Slackline and reduce its life.

50/50

As a follow-up to my ‘let the season begin’ post, here is a video of my first try on a 50′ line for the 2014 season.

50/50: My first 50 foot line as a 50 year old! Plus, I figure I’ve retained about half of my ability after taking the winter off from serious slacklining.

The two videos below try to show the difference between my abilities toward the end of last season and what I’ve got left after taking the winter off. One thing to note, I only made it to the halfway point yesterday. True, the line from 2014 is more slack (difficult) than the line from 2013. In any case, I hope you are getting out there starting this Spring!

 

 

Turn Around Jump Start

Today’s entry includes a video.

The past two days were wonderful for Slackline, considering it is November!  We did about 4 hours of slacking in the sun. Here’s a quick video of a trick I’ve been doing for about a month now. This is fun to do, and looks cool, don’t ya think?!?!

Home Made Anchors

Today I have a couple pics of some anchors I made at home. I was able to procure some 6″x6″x0.25″ plates of 6061-T651 aluminum. I cut these down into 2″ strips, laid out some hole patterns, and drilled/milled the stuff until I was left with two pieces for each anchor.

A trip to the hardware store, and I put these together using shoulder bolts, spacers, and nuts. I still need to add some sort of strap to them for connection to the tree, my plan is to sew some dog-bone style straps to one end of the anchor.

Each anchor replaces a rap ring and a carabiner, and the eventual goal is to use this type of anchor on a longer line (> 100′).

So far, I’ve made three of these, and they work great for the 50′ lines I usually set up. I don’t have a method for testing their break-strength, but calculations show they are fairly heavy duty. Here are a couple photos:

IMG_2776 IMG_2766

Quick Sit Video

Today’s entry includes a video.

Threw this video together on a whim. The trick is to sit cross-legged on the line and then rest your hands on your knees. I have by no means mastered it, I just wanted to get something up on the blog since it has been so long!

Keep at it!

What it Takes to Learn Slackline

IMG_0766

After 3 to 4 months of Slacklining, and teaching others along the way, I wanted to make a post about learning to do it. After hundreds of hours on the line, and seeing/teaching 50-100 people to enjoy this sport, I’d like to summarize things I’ve learned.

First, take a look at the above video. It is the one I used when starting out, and it is basically the techniques I use when I help people learn. Below, I expand a bit on the video’s content, and add my personal experiences.

One very important point about Slackline is that people of all ages can learn to Slackline! I’m 49, my wife is 46, and I have helped people from 7 to 67 learn to stand on the line. With a line set at knee height, over a grassy area, there really is no danger of injury.

Tips for your first time:

  • Keep your foot inline with the Slackline, not across it. Heel and toe on the line.
  • Focus on something in the distance (like a tree, DON’T look down at the line!)
  • Hands up in the air, not out to your side. Signal for a touchdown!
  • Bend your knee slightly. Do not lock your knee.
  • Breathe. If you stop breathing, you will eventually fall off the line! 🙂

Additional tips:

  • Learn to Slackline in bare feet.
  • Learn to stand on the line with one foot BEFORE you try to walk.
  • Start with a shorter line. Learning on a 25′ line is easier than on 30-50′
  • Set the line at knee height.
  • Start about 4 feet from the fixed end of the line. Away from the adjustment gear.
  • Keep your head over the line, use your hands (and free leg) for balance support.
  • Hold someone’s hand to help you get on the line the first couple times.
  • Practice on each leg. Obtain the same ability in both legs before you walk.
  • Touch your fixed foot with your free leg to help stop the shaking.
  • Take 3-5 minute breaks after every 3 or 4 attempts (per leg). Build muscle memory.

Don’t worry, most people get up their first time and they stand there for about 1/4 to 1/2 of a second. This is NORMAL! The shaking that occurs when you try to stand your first few times happens to everyone! Do not be discouraged, rather be encouraged by the progress you make in the first 15 minutes. Within three or four tries, you will be able to stand on one foot for 2 or 3 seconds. That is MAJOR improvement! Keep up the good work.

At first, your leg(s) will shake uncontrollably. This makes most people smile or laugh, which is an indication they are having fun, and that they appreciate the gravity of the situation! For the first 15 minutes or so that you try to stand on the line, the shaking will cause you to fall. But, all this time, your leg is learning to control the line. After 15-20 mins your leg will stop the shaking all by itself! You don’t even think about it, your leg takes care of the shaking. You will know you are at this point when the line starts to shake, but then it stops, and you don’t fall off!

Once your leg(s) begin to control the shaking, you can now focus your energy on fine tuning your balance. Your goal is to maximize the amount of time you can stay on the line. Two seconds, three seconds, five seconds, eight seconds, great! Once you get to ten seconds of standing, per leg, you are almost ready to take your first step! Getting to this point takes most adults about 45-60 mins of practice. Some people are faster (kids), but most people need about an hour.

If you can get up and stand on each leg for ten to fifteen seconds, you are ready to try walking. Not walking per se, but really, changing feet. After a while, standing there for fifteen seconds will get old; so bring your free foot over to the line slowly, and work to put it in front of the foot you already have on the line. As soon as you can: transfer your weight to the forward foot, take the previous foot off the line, and regain your balance using the new free foot and your hands. Try to spend very little time with both feet on the line. The important part here is to switch from one foot to the other. Nothing more. Also, don’t take any more than ONE step before stopping to regain your balance. Consecutive steps will come later as you improve.  Practice this simple transfer of weight/switching of feet, and you are well on your way to becoming a true Slacker!

I have seen people learn to walk in as little as 20 mins. Those people are rare, usually kids who are 13-18 and who do some kind of regular sporting activity. The rest of us, myself included, take about an hour of time on the line before we are “walking.” But all the while, I find that people are very intent on mastering the Slackline.

Drive and determination overcome most people who try their hand (err, foot) at Slackline. In my experience, people and Slacklines go together very well. It gives me a lot of joy when anyone approaches us in the park and shows interest. People of all ages find it intriguing, and I am always happy to let anyone have a go. I encourage it!

Lastly, there is the question of 1-inch versus 2-inch. Personally, I learned on a 1-inch line (see my blog!), and having spent some time on 2-inch lines, I would have to say that for beginners there probably isn’t much difference between them. What I mean is, it is likely going to take just about the same amount of time and effort to learn Slackline which ever way you go. People I have taught notice a difference between the two types of line, but they don’t really say they prefer one over the other. At least not until they get a bit more experience under their belts.

Learning Slackline takes time but, like learning to walk on solid ground, people make remarkable progress in the beginning. This is one of the things that makes Slackline so much fun – It seems insurmountable at first, but the progress people make in the early stages encourages them to keep going. Before they know it, the impossibility of it all disappears and, they are having a great time taking their first step. I believe this is true whether learning on a 1-inch or a 2-inch line. Don’t be afraid to try either or both!

Thanks for reading, and good luck on your first Slackline adventure!

Expanded Fixed End Anchor Technique

Today’s post includes a video below.

Expanding on my thoughts about the “double-bight” line locker, I have modified the method I use to attach the fixed-end of my Slackline to a tree. Thinking about how this works, I was able to eliminate the water knot and replace it with a double-bight line locker

This method has one advantage, and one disadvantage as compared to using a traditional water-knotted anchor.

Advantage: there is no knot in the line. In general, knots tend to weaken the anchor. I am not sure how much, and I know the weakness is reduced if you use a third strand of webbing to beef up the knot. (See here)

Disadvantage: There is only one level of webbing going around the tree. With a traditional water-knotted anchor, the anchor is doubled around the tree. This puts less stress on the anchor itself. However, for shorter lines (< 100 ft), I am not sure how much of an issue this is. Here is a photo of a fixed anchor some guys made (red line) to secure a 70′ Slackline. It uses only one wrap around the tree (similar to my method) but uses a knot (which my method eliminates).IMG_2405

Below is a photo and link to a short video (1 min) describing what I’ve done.IMG_0965

I consider this an extension to my series on Anchors.