The Beginner's Guide to Slackline

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Pro slackliner Josh Beaudoin explains how to add the ultimate balance tool to your backyard — and develop the skills to use it.

1. Invest in the gear.
Rather than stringing up a random piece of rope that hasn't been tested to withstand weight, buy a slackline kit. Slackline Industries (Beaudoin's sponsor) offers a beginner's version, with tools to anchor the ends of the line and dial in tension, for $70.

2. Start low and short.
"Try a 10- or 15-foot line, and set it up so it's two to three inches below your knees," says Beaudoin. "This hits the perfect length and height to be challenging but not psychologically daunting."

3. Shed your shoes.
Go barefoot so you can feel the line better and, at the same time, build the small, stabilizing muscles in your feet and ankles. If you're more comfortable in shoes, make sure they're flat-soled and don't have any tread that will catch on the slackline. As for socks: "Never, ever," Beaudoin says. "They are incredibly slippy."

4. Do body prep.
Before you step on the slackline, close your eyes and talk aloud to yourself while standing on one foot, then the other. Beaudoin says these small balance challenges prep the vestibular system, located inside the inner ear and in charge of motion and equilibrium, to help keep you stable.

5. Step up like this.
Straddle the line, square your chest to the anchor point, and step up with your dominant foot, using the opposite leg as a pendulum to find your balance. Bring your other foot onto the line, and focus five feet in front of you. Practice standing still like this as long as you can before taking steps forward. Says Beaudoin, "Skill comes from time spent on the line, not distance traveled."