Things have been quiet in wire walk land, but not for lack of trying. The weather has turned colder and life has been busy- not ideal for slacklining. I’ve been working to try to schedule a tight wire lesson but it’s been tricky to coordinate. I’ve been contemplating how to build some kind of contraption to practice on my own, indoors, during the winter months, but might need a bigger house to make it happen! In the meantime, it’s circus documentaries and books!
Somehow I missed the entire month of September. Now that fall is here lets hope the weather holds out enough that I can get a couple more slacklining adventures in. Or that my car holds out long enough to get me to the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts for a wire walking lesson!
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to go slacklining the last TWO saturdays, and I wish I could say my skill was growing with my enthusiasm. I’m so excited to set it up, and get on the line, but I feel like I’m not really getting much better at it yet. I can get on the line, take a few steps, then I usually fall off. To be fair, I have tried some new little things, and I’m not as nervous to get up there as I was the first time.
Rig the straps, mount the straps, walk the line, repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
My first efforts to learn how to wire walk involved building a simple apparatus in my backyard, similar in concept to a balance beam. I used scraps of wood left over from working on my house, I actually had several long boards so the job was pretty easy. I took an 8′ long board, 5.5″ across and 1.5″ wide, and laid it on its side. I bought four little metal brackets, sawed another board in half with a hand saw, and attached the halved boards on either end.
The result was an I-beam type training board, somewhat level but with considerable flex in the middle. It may sound like it would be entirely too easy to walk across, but I promise it isn’t. After a few weeks I’ve learned to walk forward and backward across it, to hop up onto it from one side landing with both feet on the board, and to do various sorts of steps and small leaps. I’ve even been working on doing little turns and pivots when I reach the end of the board.
I realize its a long way from the tight wire, but it’s definitely a good work out- and its been rewarding to develop these little skills and feel myself getting better at it gradually. At least I’ll go into working on the wire with the tiniest bit of confidence.
Yesterday my friend and I spent part of the day gathering materials, seeking out some quality trees, and taking our first stab at slacklining. We ended up in Frank Curto Park, the strange magical land on the side of Bigelow Boulevard, home to the random french fries looking sculpture and even more random wild turkey.
We picked up some nylon tow straps at the home improvement store and set about finding suitable trees to secure them to. After some trial and error we found a pretty good pair of trees and ran our line, maybe about 18″ above the ground. That may not sound very high but since this was our first try at it we wanted to make sure we could fall and not have too far to go.
A while back I watched a documentary about suspension, and someone had said that the hardest part isn’t having hooks put through the flesh of your back, its having the belief in your body to hold you as you leave the ground. “Letting go of the earth is the hardest part.”, they said, as they were slowly raised above the ground, tip-toes clinging to the earth in a last minute effort to NOT let go of stable ground.
So far in my limited experience I’m finding this notion to be very true to wire walking as well. Gathering the will to take the first step up onto the board or strap seems to be the hardest part. Once your feet leave the ground and you find your balance above it, it doesn’t seem nearly as scary as it did before.
All in all I think my first attempt at slacklining was successful. I got up on the straps, I even took a few steps. I didn’t break any bones. I laughed. I’d call that a pretty good start.
aspiring tightwire walker.