Hovering 3 feet above the ground, has anyone else seen these guys walking precariously between two trees in your local park on Sunday afternoon? I certainly have.
Slacklining is a rapidly growing outdoor sport that is capturing the attention of rock-climbers, yogis, tight-rope walkers as well as all out cliff-hanging adrenalin fiends looking for their next height fix. Simon Li is one of the big promotors of slacklining in Australia and recently started his own business producing them — Pure Slacklines. We caught up with him to see what makes him tick…
Can you provide a quick background of who you are and what you do?
As a kid, I was always active and into a lot of different sports but never quite found the right sport for me. At Uni I studied Engineering and Physics and got really involved in the solar car project. After years of pouring all my time into designing, building and racing solar cars, once it was over I suddenly had a lot of free time and ended up exploring the outdoors and really fell in love with rock climbing. When I started slacklining I wasn’t happy with the equipment available and so the idea of bringing together my two passions of engineering and outdoor sports seemed natural.
What is slacklining? Is it hard to learn?
It’s really easy to get started but takes a lifetime to master. A 5m line in the park anyone can learn to walk in a few afternoons, but the progression continues to anything you can imagine. Currently the world record is 600m long. What defines slacklining is balancing on an inch or two of flat webbing. You can walk longer and longer distances or learn a huge variety of tricks (think both yoga poses and triple backflips).
What inspires you?
I’ve always struggled with not overdoing things. For example, with rock climbing, I was single-mindedly determined to do really hard physical movements which resulted in a lot of injuries. With slacklining the trick is really to find a balance between strength, concentration and calm. You can’t just grunt your way across the line like you can with a hard rock climb. It’s a much more well rounded activity which is not only enjoyable but also good for you. There’s a very important mental aspect of slacklining, especially slacklining over water or high up between cliffs, which helps me develop focus and concentration in other areas of my life like work.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve rigged up your slackline?
The most interesting and challenging line I’ve rigged with some good friends was the first ever highline in Hong Kong a few years ago. It was a combination of technical rigging, logistics of organising everything in a new location and also getting it all done and filmed in the space of a week.
Where can you do it?
It’s really easy to set up a slackline anywhere there are trees. With some more advanced knowledge and skills, you can be creative and rig anywhere!
Where has been your favourite place to slackline so far in Australia?
Wednesday afternoons in Victoria Park in the city. It’s maybe not the first place you would have in mind but it’s grown to be such a great community. There’s always a bunch of lines set up and everyone is super helpful and willing to teach beginners and try new things. It’s also where more adventurous trips are planned for the weekends.
Do you have a dream destination in Australia that you’d love to do it?
Northern WA. A ton of potential for epic waterlines and highlines. The remoteness brings a calm and tranquillity that really vibes with the mental aspect of the sport. And the landscapes are just so amazing, how can you not have a great time?
What gear do you use? Where can someone buy it?
For shorter lines I use my 30m PureKit. I designed it exactly how I wanted and last year took one on a 10 month world trip where I only had a carry-on backpack. For highlines and longlines I use my Bloodline webbing and pulleys/rope/etc which you can get from specialty climbing and rope access shops. Definitely find someone to ask as the gear is advancing pretty fast these days.
For We Are Explorers followers who would like to try this, what do you recommend they do? Is there a community people could join?
You can just buy a pre-made kit (around 20m is perfect) and just get into it. But the best thing to do is find your local slackline community and try out a whole bunch of different lines and chat to people. Online you’ll find your local community in Facebook groups named: ‘Slackline [town name]’. e.g. Slackline Melbourne, Bondi Slackliners, Slackline Brisbane, etc. The slacklining community is almost always super friendly and inviting so give it a go!