Life on the Line

Slackliners get their kicks walking along wobbling tightropes slung over rocky gorges

Credit: Ralph Avellino

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“It’s all about mileage,” says Jon Fait, which is an odd remark for someone who spends his days walking back and forth over the same 60-foot stretch. But for Fait, racking up time on that line is crucial. Fait is a slackliner. He walks on a wobbling highline slung over a gorge between rocky crags.

Fait often quotes Socrates, who said: “Excellence is that which you do daily.” Most days, Jon can be found at his favorite crag in the San Bernardino Mountains in California. He likes this spot because it’s easy to access and, at an elevation more than 5,000 feet above sea level, the views are spectacular. The blue of the Pacific Ocean peeks out from beyond the rolling hills and cityscape. But Jon and his fellow slackliner, Jeremy Louis, are not here to sightsee. They are high above the ground rigging a line across a 60-foot gap between rock formations. When they are done, they will spend the rest of their day walking back and forth across the highline, which is basically a slackline that is high above the ground.

Slacklining emerged in the 1970s as a way for Yosemite rock climbers to practice their balance by walking across chains in the campgrounds. It has since evolved into a wide range of disciplines, including “yogalining,” balancing while performing yoga poses, “tricklining,” mastering spins and flips on wider, tightly rigged 2-inch webbing, and “highlining,” marching across a wire high above the ground protected by only a harness and leash.

A successful highline crossing takes razor-sharp concentration and some serious cojones. Some daredevils walk highlines strapped with a parachute others with no leash at all. (That’s a strain of highlining known as free-solo.) Those seeking the most adrenaline cross lines rigged between hot air balloons, then parachute off when they lose their balance.

Vocativ sent photographer Dan Krauss to capture a day in the life of a slackliner.

 

“It’s all about mileage,” says Jon Fait, which is an odd remark for someone who spends his days walking back and forth over the same 60-foot stretch. But for Fait, racking up time on that line is crucial. Fait is a slackliner. He walks on a wobbling highline slung over a gorge between rocky crags.

Fait often quotes Socrates, who said: “Excellence is that which you do daily.” Most days, Jon can be found at his favorite crag in the San Bernardino Mountains in California. He likes this spot because it’s easy to access and, at an elevation more than 5,000 feet above sea level, the views are spectacular. The blue of the Pacific Ocean peeks out from beyond the rolling hills and cityscape. But Jon and his fellow slackliner, Jeremy Louis, are not here to sightsee. They are high above the ground rigging a line across a 60-foot gap between rock formations. When they are done, they will spend the rest of their day walking back and forth across the highline, which is basically a slackline that is high above the ground.

Slacklining emerged in the 1970s as a way for Yosemite rock climbers to practice their balance by walking across chains in the campgrounds. It has since evolved into a wide range of disciplines, including “yogalining,” balancing while performing yoga poses, “tricklining,” mastering spins and flips on wider, tightly rigged 2-inch webbing, and “highlining,” marching across a wire high above the ground protected by only a harness and leash.

A successful highline crossing takes razor-sharp concentration and some serious cojones. Some daredevils walk highlines strapped with a parachute others with no leash at all. (That’s a strain of highlining known as free-solo.) Those seeking the most adrenaline cross lines rigged between hot air balloons, then parachute off when they lose their balance.

Vocativ sent photographer Dan Krauss to capture a day in the life of a slackliner.

 

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