In the 70s, after climbing hard all day, exhausted rock climbers would return to camp at Yosemite National Park and look for a way to occupy the time until their next climb. With armfuls of rope, webbing and carabiners at their disposal, climbers started to slackline. They’d pull webbing tight between two trees and take turns balancing across the line. In recent years, the sport has gained momentum and popularity through competitions, taking it to new lengths by longlining, higher heights through highlining and flips and tricks through tricklining.
Due to the new demand for supplies, companies started producing nylon webbing, which resulted in a new competitive market. Gibbon Slacklines currently dominates this industry offering a range of gear from webbing of various widths to graphic T-shirts.
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Some companies are starting to take the business side of slacklining outside of gear. Dakota Collins founded Rocky Mountain Slackline LLC, filled with what he refers to as slacklining consultants. Collins’ company strives to spread the sense of balance, peace and control that he feels while balancing on a slackline. Rocky Mountain Slackline offers courses and guidance in all areas of the sport in an effort to share the fast growing trend.
Collins had only been slacklining for about a year and was in college studying sustainability, but after falling in love with the sport, he decided to take a break to go full force with his slacklining company.
“Here at Rocky Mountain Slackline, we don’t actually sell any slacklines. We’re just trying to sell the service,” said Collins. “We’re really trying to get it out there in the community and get people exposed to it so they can see what the benefits are behind slacklining.”
Rocky Mountain Slackline hopes to accomplish this through workshops, camps and clinics for everyone from recreation center workers to those involved with school and education programs. From tricklining at promotional gigs to planning a record-breaking longline trek up a mountain, Collins has his hands in virtually every aspect of the sport.
“It’s applicable to anyone’s lifestyle and whatever you’re looking to get out of it, you can,” said Collins. “Slacklining for me is therapeutic. And that’s what I’m really going after. That’s my big shabam.”
But not everyone looks as positively at slacklining. National parks worry about damaging natural resources by stripping tree bark or snapping tree trunks. City officials who work in public parks also frown upon slackliners spreading long lines across crowded areas, tripping visitors and causing bike accidents. For these reasons, it’s been banned across many parks and college campuses in both the U.S. and Canada.
Collins hopes to help overcome some of these negative connotations by teaching responsible slacklining behavior. He urges slackliners to always wrap trees, protecting both the bark and the athletes’ gear. Another solid rule Collins adheres to: never set up on a tree less than 12 inches thick in order to avoid snapping the trunk. He also strives to leave an outdoor area even cleaner than when he arrived and encourages his clients to follow suit.
“We want to show the community that it’s safe, beneficial and a new type of fitness training,” said Collins. “It’s not just some hippie, pot smoking sport.”
photo & video credit: Mike Barry, Rocky Mountain Slackline LLC
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