Jerry Miszewski shatters highlining world record

Highlining pioneer Jerry Miszewski released video footage Wednesday of his recent highlining world record, where he successfully crossed a 704-foot highline 300 feet above the Cosumnes River Gorge near Sacramento, California. (The video is above, and although it is a bit long, it is worth the watch. If you are only interested in observing the difficulty inherent in crossing the line, start the video at 1:11.)

Miszewski shattered the previous record of 494 feet, which highliner Théo Sanson earned in June in France. Every highline is named after it is walked, and the line Miszewski walked was dubbed “the 13th Crossing” after he secured the record.

Jerry Miszewski highlining
Jerry Miszewski prefers extremely loose lines, and even with 1,000 pounds of tension, there was more than 23 feet of sag in the middle of the highline. Photo by Travis Burke

Highlining is a new but rapidly growing sport with roots in rock climbing, where highliners strap themselves to dynamic webbing that moves and sways with the highliner’s motion and the wind. Although these lines are stretched over canyons and gorges, the sport is considered extremely safe, as the highliners are securely attached to the highline, and every line and knot has at least one fail-safe, including the highline itself, which is actually two separate lines taped together.

Although the sport is safe, it is mentally taxing to the extreme. When a highliner steps onto a line, which is 1 inch wide, he must immediately rid the mind of the fear and anxiety that naturally pops into it, given how high he is above the ground. To successfully cross, the highliner must enter an almost Zen-like state.

Jerry Miszewski highlining
Jerry Miszewski correcting the tension on the main and backup lines before getting on. He always double checks his equipment to ensure safety. Photo by Travis Burke

“It forces you to calm yourself in the now in order to prevent any sort of unnecessary fighting. It’s a moving Zen sensation that encapsulates slacklining as a whole: less is more. You move less, the line moves less, making it more walkable,” Miszewski wrote in his blog about the record.

In total, it took Miszewski a week of attempts before he could secure the world record, and he started with great difficulty. When he first stepped on the line, he fell 76 times before he could even figure out how to take just one step.

Each attempt took about 90 minutes, and each attempt left Miszewski mentally and physically exhausted, meaning that he could only attempt the record every other day. In fact, after a failed attempt late in the process Miszewski decided to go camping with his wife and friends to totally disencumber himself from the task at hand.

Jerry Miszewski highlining
It was difficult to see Miszewski with the naked eye, so this photo was taken with a telephoto lens as Miszewski walked 300 feet above the ground. Photo by Travis Burke

“This proved to be exactly what I needed: a day in the sun on a lake with not a worry on my brain. Away from stress, away from discouragement, away from everything,” he wrote.

After Miszewski secured the record, he said it was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. In fact, he is still recovering from the mental and physical strength it took to complete it.

Jerry Miszewski highlining
Miszewski takes a break and talks to Dan Francis about the challenges of walking the highline. Francis was one of six people who spent hours over the course of two days stretching highline across the gorge. Photo by Travis Burke

“I am still ‘recovering’ per say. After doing a project like this, I like to change my focus for a while,” he told GrindTV. “It’s extremely overwhelming for me to devote so much of myself to a project like this. I will typically not slackline at all for several weeks after something like this.”

Miszewski is a self-described former “video game addict” who now owns a company called Balance Community, which sells highlining and slacklining equipment.

Jerry Miszewski highlining
Miszewski focuses on the end of the line and making smooth, fluid movements to try to keep the highline from moving as much as possible. “The more you focus on yourself and what you are doing at that very second, the better you will do on the line,” Jerry said. Photo by Travis Burke
Jerry Miszewski highlining
Jerry Miszewski highlining 300 feet above the ground on a line that is only 1 inch wide; photo by Travis Burke
Jerry Miszewski highlining
Frustrated and exhausted, Miszewski felt like the highline had powers over him that he couldn’t control. “Little did I know, it was me who was the issue, not the line,” he said. Photo by Travis Burke
Jerry Miszewski highlining
Miszewski sits and chats with his wife and friends, who came to support him. Photo by Travis Burke
Jerry Miszewski highlining
During the world-record-setting crossing, Miszewski felt the best he had all week, and the highline was responding exactly the way he wanted it to. He also felt the energy of his wife and friends, who had come to support him, as he spent 14 minutes crossing the line. Photo by Travis Burke
Jerry Miszewski highlining
Miszewski watches footage of the world-record-breaking highline; photo by Travis Burke
Jerry Miszewski highlining
After he had secured the world record, Miszewski felt overwhelmed with joy, confidence, pride, and relief. “I did it! I crossed that horrendous highline,” he said. “It was the most rewarding moment I had ever experienced.” Photo by Travis Burke

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