My legs are shaking and I’m fighting to remain upright. I have literally zero control. I didn’t think slacklining — walking suspended on a thin rope between two trees — would be easy, but man, I had no idea it would be this hard.
My jaw is clenched shut, the rope cuts into my feet, and I hold my breath, every muscle in my body rigid. “Unclench, but do not fall,” I think. Do not fall. Do not…
But I fall. Again and again, I fall.
I’m Steve Vasquez and for the past few weeks, I’ve been driving around the country searching for adventures that you can have just an hour or two outside of major U.S. cities. It’s been thrilling, exhausting, and (at the moment where I fall off a slackline for the millionth time) more physically demanding than I was expecting. But it’s also been one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.
Today, I’m headed just outside of Los Angeles to the San Bernardino mountains to learn how to slackline. Slacklining is an age-old hobby that’s just hit the mainstream. Basically, it involves going into nature and tying a chord between two fixed points — then walking from one to the other. Those two points can be trees or boulders or buildings, and you could be suspended a few feet or a few hundred. It just depends on your skill level and how far exactly you want your heart to leap out of your chest. It’s like being a tightrope walker, except that the slackline generally has more give and bounce than a tightrope.
Still, the concept is the same: A person suspended in the air like a superhero, balancing like a bird, and then gliding across what might as well be dental floss with total zen-like concentration and grace. So…. “shouldn’t be too hard,” I think.
With me is slacklining master, Ray Diaz. Ray is fearless. The kind of guy who walks up the face of near-horizontal boulders without breaking his stride. He’s chill in the way most of us can only wish we were. Ice in his veins, and all that.
Nothing seems to phase him. Not even walking on a thin rope over a canyon.