Slacklining in Toronto
Slacklining in Toronto is almost guaranteed to draw a crowd of curious onlookers, and after spending several months of eyeing others practicing slacklining in Toronto, I was ecstatic when one of my friends suggested it for our next monthly 'fitness outing.'
Slacklining is an activity that involves balancing and walking across a nylon rope (similar to the sensation of walking on a tightrope), and has been growing in popularity across Toronto. Unlike a tightrope which is kept fairly taut, a slackline is more dynamic and "bouncy," which allows advanced users to practice more than just walking from one end of the line to the other.
In general, slacklining as an activity requires very little investment; at the very least, you need the line itself, ratchets to secure the line with, and tree protectors. David Wilkins from Trial Tensions was kind enough give our group a free lesson using his own equipment.
Our group met at the northeast corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park, where David had set up three slacklines to practice with using tree trunks as anchors. Before we began, he gave us a quick demonstration and a few pointers to get us started. First, he recommended that we break off into smaller groups and take turns standing on the slackline, while also encouraging us to work from the middle (the hardest point to balance on). This may seem counterintuitive, but David explained that finding balance on the least stable part of the line first would result in learning how to walk across the entire line a lot faster.
I consider myself a pretty dedicated yogi, and I assumed that all of the balancing poses that I consistently practice would give me an advantage. Unfortunately, my first attempt at standing on the line was clumsy at best; I was barely able to stay on the line for more than a few seconds (including clutching my partner's shoulder) before my ankles started shaking uncontrollably and I tumbled off. After almost an hour of alternating between trying to balance on the line and taking a few tentative steps barefoot, I found myself welcoming the added support of my shoes.
The best advice David gave us was to avoid over thinking it and to step onto the rope without too much hesitation. He recommended a similar approach for walking across the line. Eventually, I realized that allowing my arms and legs to sway with my body was much more effective than trying to stand still like I do in yoga. Apparently there is such a thing as "yoga slacklining," which I would have passed off as a joke if David hadn't jumped on the line to demonstrate a few yoga poses while balancing on the line.
It's clear that it would take several more lessons before feeling comfortable enough to walk from one end to the other without help. Despite that, all of us agreed that it was an incredibly fun and somewhat humbling experience. Of course, waking up the next day with a slightly sore pair of legs and core was also a pleasant surprise.
David Wilkins currently sells slacklines and slackline accessories at Tribal Tensions or you can find them at MEC. He mainly runs his workshops out of Trinity Bellwoods Park, and the next one is taking place this Sunday (July 15), at 2pm.
Photos are of the Toronto Slapliners