22 Jan Putting It All On The Line
I have put it all out there on a highline, just a few times so far. I have not successfully got up and walked across a highline, or “sent it”. Not yet. But I want to. And I plan to, hopefully, this coming year.
What It Feels Like to Put it All Out There
Just in case you were ever curious about what it feels like to be out on a high line, I’m happy to share my limited experience. For those that would never in a million years find themselves suspended mid-air with nothing around them but a 1-inch webbing, I can share some thoughts and feelings.
The forested canyon floor was hundreds of feet below. On a highline anchored between the second and third peak of the great Stawamus Chief, I shimmied myself out into the middle of the line and there rested there for a while, taking it all in. My heart was beating out of my chest and remembering to breath became something I had to do consciously. Hanging upside down, practising some leash falls and climbing my leash were all little actions I could practice without actually getting up on the line. I did attempt a couple mounts, but on that particular day, I wasn’t ready to send it.
At that moment, out in the middle of the highline, perched balancing straight arm on my hands with the line across my hip crease, there was a lot going on, if only in my mind. I was counterbalancing myself still. Swaying in the breeze as the slack in the line reacted to my every little quiver and adjustment. The line was responding to the slightest energy I was giving it and if I shook, trembled or my muscles spasmed, it would reflect back to me what was happening in my body and shake me off like water on a dog fresh out of the lake.
For me, balancing on anything takes a fair amount of concentration and meditation. You really have to clear your mind, find your drishti (focal point), focus on your breathing and on your intention. This was most challenging for me that first time out on the high line as my heart continually attempted to jump free of me. There was also an entire circus of thoughts, distractions, questions and fears attempting to take over as I wrangled in my inner chaos.
Undulating in the breeze, in the middle of the air with nothing around me except a 1” webbing, I had to wrap my head around a lot. My fears came along for the thrill but I didn’t pay too much attention to them because I felt safe with my equipment and confident in the riggers that set up the line anchor. Vertigo had a go at me and I had to self-talk myself out of the dizziness and almost throwing up. With all these very reasonable questions and protests from my body and survival instincts arguing for attention in my head, how could I possibly get into the focused and meditative state that I require to find balance? Wasn’t happening for me. Not that day.
I had been slacklining for a couple years and that day was my first time out on a highline with SlackLife BC. In order to safely put yourself out on a highline, you should have the right equipment, some confidence walking a slackline, you should have developed a mount style that works for you and you should know how to climb your leash when you fall. And you will fall! Guaranteed! You will fall into your harness, many many times before you successfully send a line. To send a line is to walk all the way across it. So it’s a good idea to learn how to fall properly into your harness to prevent a whipper. You learn how to fall properly by intentionally falling off the line into your harness a couple times, as a warm-up. This is just one of those things that you just have to do more than once for practice to learn the skill confidently. Kinda like throwing yourself down a set of stairs just so you can let the pain teach you the proper technique, which is to go fast and hit a few stairs as possible.
Why do people want to do this kind of extreme sport?
“Sometimes you have to put it all on the line with your heart and soul for a chance to experience something truly divine.”
Great question, and one I couldn’t possibly answer for anyone else except myself. I’ve always thought of Highlining as a metaphor in life and a personal goal that I wanted to accomplish for myself. I respect and admire all the highliners I’ve ever met in the world and understand that you have to have a strong mental fortitude, physical fitness, dedication, courage, self-control and passion for living life to the fullest to become a successful Highliner. Those are all attributes that I aspire to myself and by putting myself out there on the line, I accept the challenge to put myself out there in the world and work on strengthening my own self-love, personal integrity, commitment to personal growth and appreciation of life itself. I want to Highline so that I can face my fears head on, and overcome them with belief in myself, courage and the power of my mind. This is why I want to walk the Highline, and I will one day.
I do plan to get back out on the line sometime when I can arrange a play day again with my highlining friends. It’s one of those things that you definitely have to be consistent with and get involved with the community in order to really develop confidence and skills.
Until the day comes that I get back out on the line, I’ll be watching my tribe of friends while they inspire and motivate the world by walking on air, mastering their minds and controlling their fears. You can watch the SlackLife BC crew as well on their own web series called The SlackLife Series.
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