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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cliffhangers cut some slack

    Math and material sciences engineering junior Mark Lauer balances himself while slacklining on Friday. Lauer, a member of the UA Cliffhangers, described slacklining as a relaxing but challenging hobby.
    Math and material sciences engineering junior Mark Lauer balances himself while slacklining on Friday. Lauer, a member of the UA Cliffhangers, described slacklining as a relaxing but challenging hobby.

    The key to relaxation is walking on a nylon rope strung between two trees – at least according to the UA Cliffhangers.

    The Cliffhangers, a group of 10 UA students, are slackliners. They meet every Friday morning in front of the Douglass building, 1100 E. University Blvd.

    The sport, a cross between tightrope walking and rock climbing, is called slacklining and can be enjoyed anywhere you can string up a rope between two objects.

    “”It’s one of those weird, fun activities,”” said Andrew McCallister, a geography sophomore who has been slacklining for more than three years. “”I love being outside.””

    McCallister was introduced to the sport at a rock-climbing gym in Denver, and he soon began stringing up slacklines in his back yard.

    “”Then I just got hooked,”” he said.

    McCallister said slacklining is partly mental, requiring a calm that allows participants to focus on walking. The rope bends toward the ground when he stands and walks on it.

    The key to slacklining is controlling your body and keeping movements fluid, he said.

    “”It’s like a riding-a-bike kind of thing,”” said Mark Lauer, a math and materials science and engineering junior who has been slacklining about a year. “”You just get used to the movements.””

    To walk a slackline, a participant should start with his dominant foot vertically on the line and keep his eyes on a single spot. The opposite leg should be close to the line to steady it, and the participant should push down with his dominant leg to rise onto the line, Lauer said.

    “”Getting up on it at first is killer (difficult),”” said Matthew Goodman, a materials science and engineering senior who has been slacklining since January.

    When you walk, put your foot forward on the line and slowly shift your weight onto that foot, McCallister said.

    “”You spend a while just practicing standing, then walking, then when you get to the end, turning,”” Goodman said.

    The sport has been around less than 30 years, but competitions with set rules have begun to spring up across the U.S.

    More experienced climbers learn to do tricks on the line and some even do yoga on the slackline. Daredevils have set up slacklines across a gap that is 3,000 feet high.

    “”My biggest goal is to string it up between two peaks across a canyon,”” McCallister said. “”(But) I find it a really good way to relax.””

    Outside the Douglass building, the slackliners can jump onto the line, sit on it, bounce and cross from line to line, all on a line about 2 inches wide.

    “”A lot of people will come stare at you and then when you ask them to try it, they pretend they weren’t looking at you,”” Lauer said.

    The setup consists of climber’s webbing and carabiners, metal hooks that help tighten the slackline. It costs about $30 and can be found at an outdoor equipment store.

    “”You can do it anywhere you can carry a rope and string it up,”” Goodman said.

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