Slacklining at Lady Bird Lake in Austin


While strolling around Lady Bird Lake on Friday afternoon, I witnessed an interesting sport called slacklining. I’d just read about it in the local paper, but it was remarkable to observe in person.


A group of slackliners had strung their line—flat, stretchy nylon webbing—between two piers of the MoPac bridge that crosses the lake. Along the pedestrian bridge that runs under the highway, runners and walkers had stopped and were lined up to watch.


This is Janek inching his way onto the line from the pier, approximately 30 feet above the water. Just watching them walk on the pier gave me vertigo, so I don’t know how they could bring themselves to do this.


At first he straddled the line, but after he’d ooched out several feet, he put one foot on the line…


…transferred his weight onto that leg…


…and gracefully stood up on a piece of stretchy webbing about one inch wide, 30 feet above a distractingly rippling lake. The red belt was attached to a safety clip and line designed to catch him if he fell.


After a few wobbles, steadied by outstretched arms, he started walking the line.


He fixed his eyes on the opposite end of the rope.


You can see the concentration in his face. After he reached the 2nd pier, he turned around and walked the line back to his starting point.


Austinite Faith Dickey, whom I’d read about in the local paper, was there too, and she went out on the line next.


How in the world?!


Standing…


…and she’s up.


Faith fixed her eyes on the far end of the line and never looked down.


Intense concentration


When she reached the opposite pier, she relaxed and joked with her friends for a minute…


…and then she started back across.


Amazing!


What happens if they fall? I spotted this fallen slackliner (not Faith, judging by the clothing) dangling under the bridge as we approached. She pulled herself along the slackline toward the first pier, and I lost sight of her as she pulled herself back up.

You can read more about Janek and Faith at Slackline Motion (no longer active), Faith’s blog about their bohemian adventures as they slackline in national parks and in cities around the world. Update 7/14: See Faith’s website That Slackline Girl.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

13 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    Now, if that isn’t just the ‘weirdest’ thing yet. Not sure if this one will catch on, but then you never know in this town. Great capture on the lip ornaments. Yuck!

  2. Les says:

    I think as long as the bridge is not out, I’d just walk across it and leave this activity to people who are way more coordinated than I am.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You obviously have to be in good shape to do such a thing. I would probably faint at the prospect. I wonder where they first started practicing this feat. Looks like it would be fun, if you could do it.

    Faith writes in her blog Slackline Motion that she first tried it on a line just above the ground and that it took her months to attain the skill. Wikipedia says that slacklining started in Yosemite Valley in the 1980s when some hikers strung their climbing gear and tried walking it. It does look like it would be fun to try but, for me at least, not over heights like this. —Pam

  4. Denise says:

    Interesting take on tightrope walking. Maybe these kids were inspired by the docu Man on Wire? But what a great photo-op for you, Pam. These photos are wonderful.

    Thanks, Denise. I had the same thought and asked one of the slackliners if they’d seen the movie Man on Wire. She replied that slacklining is different from the high-tension tightrope walking that Philippe Petit did in the movie. He used a long pole for balance, and his cable was narrower, not flat, and not bouncy like a slackline. It takes different skills, she said. —Pam

  5. Kacky says:

    That is WILD! I have never heard of it. Great photos- intense!!!!

  6. Darla says:

    My goodness…my 23 year old just informed me that he, his sister and her husband do this….wonder why they never told me? More to pray about now!

  7. Mamaholt says:

    WOWZA…great “view,” if you know what I’m saying. None of those kids are hard on the eyes. LOVE that kind of stuff.

  8. Dennis says:

    Been having problems with virus and malware lately. So I get on your site and the first thing that shows up is a guy without a shirt on. OH My where has my poor infected computer taken me now. Happily you quickly explained what it was. I was relieved that my poor computer had not been taken over by someone or something. I agree with the above post about making use of the bridge in its intended fashion. Interesting.

  9. I’m with you, no way. Looks like it was fun capturing the event on camera!

  10. Lisa Blair says:

    Wow – isn’t this interesting! Thanks for taking us to a front row seat to this adventure.

  11. Randy says:

    Pam,

    Looks like fun. Maybe you should try it sometime? I would do it in a heart beat. great photos!

  12. chuck b. says:

    Do they call themselves slackers? Haha

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