Wallis Thomson, Thomas Flahr and Aidan Middleton spend a lot of their evenings at the park or the beach and they usually draw a crowd. They set up their slacklines and soon tourists are taking pictures and the curious come over to ask questions.
Wallis says she often practises at Klahani Park and children end up hanging out with her.
“They come and take over the slackline and that’s OK,” says Wallis. “It’s funny how fast they pick it up.”
Slacklines are anchored between two trees and have less tension than tightropes, making them stretch and bounce more like a long and narrow trampoline.
“I’ve been doing this since mid-May,” says Wallis. “Thomas introduced me to it. My friend lent me her line and I go out almost every day. As soon as I was able to stand and take a few steps, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had to keep trying.”
She says it’s addicting and Thomas and Aiden agree, even though they all are sporting bruises on their arms and legs.
“I was climbing and then I started slacking. I still climb but I slackline more,” says Aidan.
Thomas saw people doing this at the beach last year. Soon after he owned his own line and was practising daily.
There are many different ways to mount and Thomas is practicing a ‘sit mount’, sitting on the line with one leg bent and the other straight. After getting his balance, he slowly gets into a stand position.
He has his line about five feet off the ground. Aiden has his about eight-feet high and Wallis’ is about three, but they go back and forth on each-other’s lines depending on what they want to work on. (Aidan practises walking blindfolded on Thomas’ line.)
Aidan says one thing he likes about it is that it’s social and personal at the same time. He explains that everyone goes through the same learning curves – there are no superstars.
“No one is naturally good – everyone sucks so hard at the beginning – it feels impossible. You can’t even walk five metres, and then it’s doable.”
Thomas likes seeing the progression.
“You stand and fall off, and then you start seeing results as you put more time into it. I have goals, I’m building my way to highlining.”
Aidan has done some highlining over ‘The Chief’ in Squamish. He was fully equipped with safety gear, but he did cross the 64-metre gap at the north gully of Chief mountain, 290 metres off the ground.
“It’s terrifying, but you know you’re safe in your heart – it’s all mental. I sat there for 10-15 minutes… then I walked it and then I got off and was done for the day. I was so amped,” he says in his animated way.
So far, Wallis has no desire to try highlining, but she likes increasing her difficulty and challenging herself.
During the day, Wallis is at the tennis courts “either playing or coaching,” and in the fall she plans to go to UBC in Vancouver to get a Bachelor of Science, majoring in astronomy.
Thomas is going to Acadia University in Nova Scotia in September. He plans to take engineering and start a slackline group.
Aidan will be going back to UBC (where he is president of the university slacklining club) and continue studying biology.
“I want to end up teaching – but that’s all subject to change.”
But one thing he is sure of: “I want to walk bigger lines.”
If you see Wallis, Thomas and Aidan with their slacklines set up at Canoe Beach, or any of the parks, they are happy to let people try out the line.