How to set up a safe backyard slackline

Slacklines are everywhere these days, so where’s yours? While you can rig one temporarily in a park, having a stationary setup you can keep in the backyard will provide that daily reminder to practice, practice, practice. And really that’s the only way to get good at any sport.

Another great thing about a personal fixed rig is you can tinker around with basics or work on advanced skills as you progress — without an audience to witness every fall. Sometimes privacy makes all the difference.

man balancing on log
The biggest beginner move for slacklining is just balancing. We won’t tell if you try a tree branch first. Photo: Tikkho Maciel/Unsplash

Slackline gear is pretty simple, and it now comes in kits that suit any type of balance artist, from newbies to acrobats. The basic rig is a 50-foot-long, 2-inch-wide slackline (1-inch lines are for advanced slackliners) with a ratchet system for anchoring. If you don’t have any well-spaced trees, look into grass anchors or ground screws to support your slackline.

If you’re on a budget, just make sure you don’t skimp on webbing material or your ratchet system. You want security, safety and ease — and you should be able to find that for between $50 and $80.

guy's foot on slackline
A rigid slackline with quality, low-stretch webbing is ideal for learning. Photo: Courtesy of Slackline Industries

Look for a rigid slackline denoted “low stretch,” which will ensure you’re not learning on a line that’s too bouncy or saggy. Intro-level ratchets should be single-lever and single-lock, with a safe quick-release.

Helpful add-ons include rubberized gripping on the webbing itself for foot hold, guards for the tree, a “helpline” or topline for holding above the basic line, instructional DVDs and more.

Check out the Skyline Beginner Slackline Kit ($44.99) for a modestly priced entry-level option with everything you need; the solid, no-frills Gibbon Classicline ($85), from one of the originals in the industry; or the higher-end Slackline Industries Base Line ($59.99) or Play Line ($69.99) kits, especially if you have kids.

Once you’re geared up, there’s nothing else to do except get out there.

“The quickest way to get slacklining is by starting ‘short, tight and low,'” Frankie Najera of Slackline Industries told GrindTV. That means halving your 50-foot line if you need to, making sure it’s ratcheted tight and level and not placing it too high above the ground.

Also, you don’t even have to walk at first. “Take turns balancing on one leg, without walking, and then slowly attempt walking once you feel stable on either leg,” Najera says.

Getting stronger and more stable will help you build up to moving along the line. “As you start to feel comfortable, make the line looser, longer, then tighten it back up at longer lengths and practice it all,” says Najera.

girl doing trick on slackline
Once you get comfortable balancing and walking, you can move on to tricks. Photo: Courtesy of Slackline Industries

Once you’re cruising, try some tricks, but don’t jump into those too early. You can start with a small jump, where your feet leave the line for a second, and land without falling off. Then comes the crook, knee drop, butt bounce and a whole list of initial tricks.

“Once you really get the hang of it, you can start doing tricks immediately,” Najera says. “The learning curve really accelerates once you get the balance down.”

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