The Growing Sport Of Slacklining Is Finding A Home In Squamish, British Columbia

slackline

Slack­lin­ing was first prac­ticed by climbers dur­ing idle time when they weren’t out on the rocks. This brand of tight-rope-esque fun, requir­ing poise, bal­ance, and yogi-like con­cen­tra­tion has evolved into an activ­i­ty unto itself. The sport is grow­ing in to an inter­na­tion­al phe­nom­e­na, and the bound­aries of what is pos­si­ble are rapid­ly expanding.

Squamish is becom­ing a mec­ca for slack­lin­ers. There are two spots in town (ocean-side at Nex­en Beech and in the camp­ground at the base of The Chief) where slack­lines are per­ma­nent­ly set-up. Vol­un­teers take on rig­ging, post-hole dig­ging and main­te­nance required to keep these lines functional. 

On July 19, Squamish host­ed its sev­enth annu­al Hevyfest—for slack­lin­ing and hula hoop­ing. Vol­un­teers added to the exist­ing slack­lines, bring­ing the total num­ber up to 20. Despite spo­radic show­ers in this occa­sion­al­ly rainy moun­tain town, a mix­ture of diehard slack­ers, tourists and locals turned out to enjoy the fes­tiv­i­ties of slack lin­ing, hula hoop­ing, and hang­ing out. 

Event orga­niz­er Allan Stevens was in Yosemite Val­ley in the 1980s when slack­lin­ing was in its infan­cy. “The real joy for me is see­ing the kids hav­ing a good time. Look over there,” he remarked at the fes­ti­val, point­ing to the kid’s zone where some kids were mon­key­ing around on slack lines just above the ground. He’s excit­ed for what will become of slack­lin­ing when this gen­er­a­tion, who have been intro­duced at such a young age, get older.

kid on line

Stevens has been the impe­tus behind Hevyfest for sev­en years now. He is work­ing with the Squamish Dis­trict to build an offi­cial­ly rec­og­nized slack­line park in town as the lines erect­ed at Nex­en Beech where the fes­ti­val are per­mis­si­ble, but not offi­cial­ly unsanctioned. 

Gabri­o­la Piper of Port­land Ore­gon, usu­al­ly splits her free time between slack­lin­ing and rock climb­ing. “This is the time of year when it gets too hot to be func­tion­al at Smith Rocks, and so there tends to be a bit of migra­tion.” Gabri­o­la and a group of her like-mind­ed friends have come up to Squamish in search of bet­ter con­di­tions in which to pur­sue their pas­sions. She is pleased to dis­cov­er the fes­ti­val and the cul­ture of slack­lin­ing here in Squamish. 

Gabri­o­la is a “long lin­ing” afi­ciona­do, the style of slack lin­ing that tra­vers­es long dis­tances. “Longlin­ing is prob­a­bly my favourite form of med­i­ta­tion because when I man­age the send, the sense of accom­plish­ment I get is by far more than any­thing I’ve ever felt. High­lin­ing [lines rigged at ele­va­tion between tall trees or rock peaks] scares me and I do it to try to over­come that; hon­est­ly it’s the most ter­ri­fy­ing thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

highlining

A group of pas­sion­ate slack­lin­ers at Slack Life BC are orga­niz­ing Assault on The Chiefa high­lin­ing event in its sec­ond year. The group will spend three days start­ing August 15 rig­ging and walk­ing high­lines between peaks of the Stawa­mus Chief.

by Drew Copeland