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!!!

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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*.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

Chongo Mount

This past weekend, the kids over at Colorado School of Mines held a slackline festival. There were tons of slacklines set up, and people of all ages and skill levels participating in the fun! We were near this particular 150′ line, so I decided to practice my chongo mount. The video below shows one of my attempts. Although I did not walk far, I was mostly trying to mount the dang thing! Later in the day, I was able to walk 10 steps (at the opposite end of the line).

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:

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Slackline A-Frames — No Trees Required!

 

See my update to this design here.

Today’s post is about making Slackline A-Frames. I developed these for use when there are no trees around, or when you want to attach to the base of a small tree, or to a vehicle’s trailer-hitch*. The following picture shows the general idea of using A-Frames for Slackline. Photos of the real thing are down below.

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Each A-Frame is made from one piece of 2×6 lumber, 8 feet long. These can be purchased at local home improvement centers for about $5 each. In addition, I use a piece of 3/4″ plywood, some nuts and bolts, and a piece of 1/2″ black iron pipe.

These A-Frames disassemble for ease of transport.

Parts List (enough for two A-Frames):

  • Qty 2, 2x6x8′ lumber
  • Qty 2, 12″x10″ plywood, 3/4″ thick
  • Qty 2, 12″ piece of 1/2″ black iron pipe
  • Qty 2, 1/2″-20 x 3″ eyebolts
  • Qty 4, 1/2″-20 x 3″ bolts
  • Qty 6, 1/2″-20 wing nuts
  • Qty 12, 1/2″ washers

Using 4-foot legs results in the Slackline being 3 feet off the ground when suspended between the frames and tightened for walking.

To make an A-Frame, follow these steps:

  1. Cut one of the 2x6s in half, resulting in two 4-foot lengths of 2×6. Two 4-foot lengths make one A-Frame.
  2. Cut a 60 degree half-lap in each leg. It is important to be sure you make two identical pieces. In other words, cut the half-lap in each piece using the same orientation. In the picture below, you can see the cut-out diagram. The white parts are the waste. Look carefully, all four pieces (for two A-Frames) are identical.
  3. Carefully cut the ends off the 2x6s at 60 degree angles, but in the opposite direction of the half laps. See picture below. Pay very close attention to this detail. If you cut the ends of the legs in the wrong direction, you will have to start over!
  4. Clamp two half-lapped pieces together, and drill a 1/2″ hole in the center of the two half laps.
  5. Drill a 1/2″ hole in the center of a plywood piece.
  6. Insert a bolt through the plywood and the A-Frame and tighten.
  7. Orient the plywood to the A-Frame, and drill two more 1/2″ holes in the plywood and the A-Frame legs.

SlackHorseAAt this point, you can assemble one of the A-Frames and it should look like the picture below.

IMG_2741Notice that the eyebolt goes in the plywood’s center hole, and the Eye faces the anchor point (in the ground, or at the base of a tree). Connect an anchor line (with carabiner) between the eyebolt and the same point on ground or tree where the Slackline connects. This prevents the A-Frame from falling inward.

The other two bolts can go either direction. All three bolts have a wing-nut and washers for added stability.

Be sure to include one of the 12″ pipe lengths under the Slackline at the top of the A-Frame (see picture above). This prevents the edge of the plywood from wearing out the Slackline due to a friction rub. I tried putting a quarter-roundover on the edge of the plywood, but the wood rubbed the line too much. This is why I added the pipe.

Here are a few more pictures showing the setup and use of these A-Frames.

This first picture shows the whole setup, and although we used large enough trees, the point was to attach the line close to the base, and use the A-Frames for complete support. These first two pics were taken before I decided to add the 12″ pipe (to prevent friction rub on the line).

IMG_2712IMG_2718IMG_2744If you make these, please tell me how you did. I find these to be a great way to setup a Slackline, and look forward to using them in places where there are not big trees.

See my update to this design here.

* Be extra cautious if you use a vehicle’s trailer hitch to anchor a Slackline, the last thing you want to do is move/drive the vehicle while the Slackline is connected. That’s a great way to destroy a Slackline. You have been warned!

What it Takes to Learn Slackline

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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.

New Fixed End Technique

I’ve come up with a technique for using a Rap Ring as a line locker. I am not sure if this is an original idea, but I thought of it on my own, and I don’t recall seeing this on any other Slackline pages. That doesn’t mean it is my idea, of course!

[EDIT: browsing Adam’s website a second time revealed his method for making the fixed-end anchor with one carabiner and two rap rings.]

Basically, my method is what I call a double line locker, or a double-bight line locker. Not sure how it should correctly be called. I came up with this method to save myself a carabiner when anchoring the “fixed” end of a primitive Slackline. I wanted to anchor a second line, and wondered if I had enough equipment to do so without buying more carabiners. The trick was to prevent tri-loading, without using a carabiner (see my post on eliminating tri-loading here). Below is a picture of the final rigged line with the new technique. Further down the page I describe how to create this anchor point.

IMG_2355

In the picture above, we see the yellow Slackline, and a purple anchor coming from around a tree. This solution uses two Rap Rings and one carabiner, whereas my previous posts and videos use two Rap Rings and two carabiners at the fixed end of the line. This is a somewhat significant cost savings – mostly because I buy the $11 carabiners, while Rap Rings are under $5. The purple anchor line is wrapped around the tree/tree-protection. There are no other carabiners or equipment. Only the requisite water knot.

The method.

[Edit: after reading this post, you may be interested in a similar method that eliminates the water knot in the anchor.]

The next few pictures show the steps to assemble the Rap Ring to the anchor once the anchor has been passed around the tree (or other stationary object).

Start with an anchor.

IMG_2358Wrap the anchor around a tree. I haven’t done so below, but if you can imagine a tree being between the two ends, that will suffice.

IMG_2359Now bring the two ends together…

IMG_2361…and place one inside the other. It doesn’t matter which one ends up on the inside, but keep the line from twisting when the two are combined.

IMG_2362Now, we basically have a bight. Of course this is really two bights, one inside the other, but the principle works the same now as when installing a line locker in the usual fashion. Slip the ends through a Rap Ring.

IMG_2363And pass them around…IMG_2364…and back through the Rap Ring.

IMG_2366At this point, insert a carabiner through the center of the whole thing, just as is done for a regular line locker.

IMG_2367In the picture below, we see the blue anchor, the double-wrap line locker, the carabiner, and the Slackline (represented here in purple).

IMG_2369Here is the picture of the actual setup in use at a park (again).

IMG_2355One thing I have figured out is that as the line wraps around the tree, it is vertical. Once it comes to the dual-bight line locker, it needs to go back to horizontal (because we want the Slackline to be horizontal). I have noticed the line stays very flat, and the one-quarter turn twist resulting from the mismatch in horizontal and vertical is not a big deal. You can reduce it by carefully determining the best way to route the anchor pieces before sending them into the Rap Ring. If you eliminate all twists, the line will lay quite flat when everything is tightened.

I’ve used this setup successfully on my 50′ primitive line.

Another place I’ve found this useful is on my wife’s 50′ line that has loops sewn at the ends. On her line, we use a slip-knot around a tree. This makes it quite difficult to get the Slackline flat because of the way the slip knot works. I’ve been using an anchor at the fixed end instead of the slip-knot setup. This helps keep her line very flat.

Here is a picture:

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Have you seen or used this setup before?

What are your thoughts on it?

Rap Ring Replacements

After viewing this article over on NWSlackline, I decided to try my hand at using chain links instead of rap rings in my Slackline setup. I ventured out to my local Lowe’s home improvement store and bought one foot (nine links) of 5/16″ 3900lb working load limit (WLL) chain*. Total bill was $2.89 including tax. After cutting every other link I will have 5 good links, so the cost comes out to about $0.58 per link – not bad when you compare the cost of a rap ring at $4.75 (plus tax). A rap ring weighs about 30% less than a link, which is why climbers probably wouldn’t do something like this, but chain links are perfectly useful for Slacklining.

I used a grinder and a cutoff wheel (and some safety equipment) to cut the four odd links. This left me with 5 links for use as line lockers.

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I filed down the weld on each link. As Adam points out, over time the weld on each link can cause damage to the Slackline. (Click on the picture above, and zoom in, to see the welds on the links)  Using a file, some 80 grit sandpaper, and some elbow grease I removed the weld protrusion. The following picture shows a link after the process.

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After smoothing things over with the link, I replaced two of the rap rings in my Slackline setup, one at each end. This picture shows the fixed end using a chain link instead of a rap ring. (The rap ring seen in this picture is part of the system to remove the tri-loading, and cannot be replaced with a chain link).

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For size comparison, here is picture of a link and a rap ring:

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Chain links are nearly 1/10th the cost of rap rings, and two links can eliminate both rap rings of a basic primitive setup. This saves about $9 and gets the job done quite well.

* Note: I used 5/16″ Grade 43 chain that has a 3900 lb Working Load Limit (WLL) and a breaking strength of over 11,000 lbs (52kN). You’ll also find 3/8″ Grade 43 chain available with a WLL of 5400 lbs, and a break strength over 16,000 lbs (72kN). Either of these are good choices, and both accept a 1″ wide Slackline. I stayed away from the chain with lower rating (ie. 2650 lb WLL) and went with the Grade 43. More information here.

Anchor Basics Parts 2

Today’s entry includes video below.

This is the second entry in the series on slackline anchors. (click here for Part 1)

The Part 2 video below describes three types of anchor setups for the adjustment end of a slackline (the part where you tighten it).
Now, get out there and start slacking!!

Inspiration for this idea is taken from Adam’s “Strength of 3 men…” video on NWSlackline.

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