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slacklining

noun [uncountable]

the activity of balancing and walking on a piece of bouncy nylon rope which is suspended above the ground

slackline

noun [countable] verb [intransitive/transitive]

slackliner

noun [countable]

'… the three-day event taking place at the famous Dublin venue showboats Ireland's most thrilling and terrifying outdoor activities, including zorbing, extreme trampoline and slacklining.'

Irish Independent 20th May 2011

'"When I am free soloing, usually I am so confident with my abilities on the slackline," he says. "I just stroll across – it doesn't even look hard.'

Daily Mail 2nd June 2011

'The board estimates that it will cost $6,000 to install permanent posts that would rise several feet out of the ground to allow slackliners to use as an anchor.'

Billings Gazette 21st May 2011

What do you get when you cross tightrope walking with trampolining? The answer is slacklining, a new leisure activity becoming popular across the globe and attracting people of all ages, from young children to die-hard adrenalin junkies.

the length of a slackline can vary, with longer lines being more difficult to walk because they're looser and harder to control

Slacklining is a balancing sport involving a piece of nylon rope which is suspended above the ground between two anchor points, often trees or other upright structures which are sufficiently far apart. The nylon rope, referred to as a slackline, is a length of one or two inch wide tubular webbing, a type of rope often used for climbing. Though it looks a bit like tightrope walking, slacklining is quite different because the line is not held taught and is made of an elasticated material which stretches and bounces beneath the feet. It therefore gives a sensation similar to that of being on a trampoline, albeit an incredibly narrow one!

The length of a slackline can vary, with longer lines being more difficult to walk because they're looser and harder to control, and shorter lines being more suitable for tricks. The elasticity of the line makes it possible for proficient slackliners to jump and do a range of other stunts, including walking backwards, sitting or lying down, turning around, dropping the knee, or even doing back flips!

The other thing that varies is the height of the line, which is conventionally just a couple of feet above the ground, but is sometimes a very large distance above it. This variation is called highlining, and is usually done with special equipment and appropriate safety harnesses, though a daredevil minority do it without, a feat dubbed by insiders as a free solo (check out the link in the second citation above for some jaw-dropping photos). By contrast, in what is referred to as lowlining or tricklining, the slackline is positioned close to the ground and the focus is on stunts and tricks. A further variation on the theme is waterlining, which is slacklining across stretches of water.

Background – slackline and slacklining

Slacklining first emerged in the UK about three years ago, but its origins are in the USA, and can be traced back to a group of thrill-seeking rock climbers who in the late seventies first had the idea of stringing up nylon webbing and walking across it. There is now global interest in the activity and various slacklining world records exist, including 306 metres for the longest walk across, and an amazing 1000m for the highest.

As well as being used as a countable noun to refer to the line itself, the word slackline is also used as a verb, both intransitively as in slackline across/over etc, and occasionally transitively, with the object referring to the geographical feature at which the slacklining takes place. The word slackliner is used to refer to participants, who are sometimes also informally referred to as slackers.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

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This article was first published on 11th July 2011.

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