Two feet off the ground, sophomore Mitchell Gaylord presses heel to toe as he walks across the slackline. His focus is trained on the tree ahead and nothing else.
Slacklining has been a norm on campus for the past few years, but became an official club this year. They meet at 2:30 p.m. in the Pulse on Sundays and will have spontaneous slack sessions when the weather permits. As slacklining becomes more popular around campus, people still question what this activity is. When asked about slacklining, freshman Bryce Fowler asked, “does it concern fishing?”
Slacklining is an activity performed on a nylon strip of webbing with various lengths, tied normally between two trees. The slackliner balances and tries to walk across without falling. Whether it is a fun outdoor activity with friends or used for balance training among all ages, Slacking Club President Michael Monahan, says slacklining is a great way to meet new people while building core strength and enhancing balancing skills.
“I saw voyage people doing it when we came up for voyages and it looked easy,” freshman Betty Becerra said. “I just bit it the first time, so then I was like ‘this looks cool. I want to get good at it.’”
Monahan, a junior, said slacklining is also a great way to meditate and relieve the stresses of school. Slacklining benefits the body in many ways. He said he can ride his bike much better because he is able to take sharper turns faster around tight corners.
“You become very in tune with all these small body, fine motor skills, so you aren’t paying attention to anything else around you,” Monahan said. “When I’m in that state I’m not stressed out about anything. I’m focused on the slackline. I’m very in the moment, in the zone, in the flow.”
Slacklining originated as a hobby amongst rock climbers, but is becoming more widely known. Monahan received news about the activity from his peers, and after seeing a friend set one up outside in the quad his freshman year, he tried it and decided to take initiative during his free time this year to start a club.
Gaylord said the first time he was exposed to slacklining was in California while on a band trip during his senior year of high school.
“I didn’t begin slacklining regularly until I came to Pacific,” Gaylord said. “What drew me to begin slacklining at Pacific was the people that were doing it. Everyone that I have met that slacks are incredibly kind and helpful towards beginners.”
Practicing every chance he got, the past year has been a year of progress for Gaylord.
“The tricks that I have learned are static tricks such as sitting on the line, kneeling on the line, touching my head to the line while kneeling, and some ways to turn around on the line,” Gaylord said. “This drive to slackline often was driven more by the fact that it was fun than by a desire to get better, but as with everything, the more you do, the better you will get.”
Now as slacklining is becoming more popular, more people are discovering issues with the activity. Some deem it dangerous, but Monahan disagrees.
“The worst injury I have ever seen was a guy who jumped off onto another girls foot and she hurt her toe a little,” Monahan recalls, but admits that people do fall and get slung off. If the slack is not over concrete, he’s never really seen people get hurt from it.
Besides danger, slacklining is believed to harm the trees where the webbing is tied. Many parks and schools are banning slacklining on their grounds. Schools such as University of Colorado-Boulder and Portland parks have already outlawed this activity. To prevent this from happening, Monahan places cardboard around the trees for padding, and ties the slacklines to it so the friction doesn’t harm the bark.
As for the future of the Pacific University club, no issues seem to be standing in its way. As slacklining technology progresses, Monahan said the club will progress because new lines are coming out that have different mechanisms that will protect the lines from fraying, assuring safety and quality.
“As more people realize it’s not impossible to do and that it’s very accessible, it’s going to get more popular,” Monahan said.
Assistant Director of Graduate and Professional Programs Admissions, Abby Boardman, became the advisor for the club because of her lack of involvement in student life during college and her intriguing interest and excitement for this specific activity.
“One of the goals of Pacific’s slacklining club is to provide members-only trips to slackline off campus,” Boardman said. “I think it would be an excellent opportunity to bond outside of school. Additionally, I’m hoping some work with Pacific Outback will result in more events.”
Monahan hopes to eventually travel to the beach, Smith Rock and various creeks. He said anyone can do it, no skills necessary. Monahan’s motto: “If you can walk, you can slackline.”