The art of slacklining originated in California in the 1970s around the same time rock climbing became mainstream. Despite being around for 50 years, it's only since the late 2000s that slacklining has become accessible, primarily due to the availability of commercial slackline kits and equipment. The rise of Youtube and social media have lent a helping hand in bringing slacklining into the mainstream eye.
What do I know? I'm Jonas, and since 2010 my life has been fully dedicated to the sport. I've ran multiple slackline businesses and brands in the past, and now I share a little slacklining love with the So We Flow... community. Currently, I run my own highline training program, perform slackline at events and in the circus, teach slackline in schools and educate teachers to teach slacklining themselves.
Next to my professional career I'm fully stoked to expand my own slacklining skill set and keen to share my experiences with the So We Flow... crowd - to inspire more people to start slacklining and reap the benefits. So let's get stuck into my top 10 slacklining tips for beginners.
10 Slacklining Tips for Beginners
1. What's Do I Need to Slackline?
Get Your Own Slackline Kit
Slacklining is an unorganised sport. You'll learn it faster by getting your own slackline kit and getting outside to practice. When you own your own kit, you take responsibility for your slackline. They want to be taken to the park and walked all over! Own it and own the practice.
To begin with, any slackline kit will do. A primitive setup or a ratchet kit with a length of 15m will get you started. You need to learn to balance on a slackline first. So even a transport strap for a roof rack will be okay to practice on. With regular practice you'll need to take things to the next level in only a few months. For advanced slacklining you'll need to upgrade your kit...
2. How Tight Should a Slackline Be?
Begin Easy, Short & Tight
A slackline is a wobbly, unstable surface that you are required to stand on. It's the opposite to standing on solid ground which is stable, doesn't move and is always there. You may get a surprise when you realise how used to solid ground you've become! What is the best slackline length for beginners? Do yourself a favour and make your slackline short. That's 3-6 metres or 10-20 feet long. If the slackline is shaking too much, ask a friend or even a friendly faced stranger to sit on the line to increase its stability.
3. How Do I Start Slacklining?
Start Balancing Whilst Standing Still
Over the years of teaching slacklining I see most people being so obsessed with crossing the slackline that they forget to take time in the place they are. Remember that to be able to walk a slackline, you need to be able to stand still too. In between every step you need to be able to maintain balance and stay in control. So in my classes I give people a challenge to start with - how long can you stand still on one spot? How long can you do that but on one leg? Now try it on your weaker leg? In the end you should be comfortable in all positions - so practice for all the possibilities.
4. What's the Best Way to Learn Slacklining?
Expose Yourself to New Challenges, But Stick at 80%
In order to learn new tasks, you've got to stay motivated. In general with learning, a good ratio of succeeding to failing is 80/20. For every 10 attempts, 8 should work. If you dial in that ratio, 'they' say you'll pick up new skills the quickest. Let's be honest - it's much more fun when things work out, at least most of the time. Failure sometimes but succeed often! That means working at a difficultly level that suits you. However, don't hesitate to try things that appear too difficult - you'll only learn by taking these chances and pushing your limits. Your body will adjust to these new demands in no time - so open your mind to every possibility.
5. Why Am I Not Improving?
Be Patient & Give Yourself Time to Learn
It took me a year to become comfortable on relatively short slacklines. It was over two years before I trusted my capabilities to attempt a highline. Slacklining is a sport which you can pick up quickly - balancing on a stable slackline isn't easy, but you'll have it nailed in a few hours or so. As soon as you progress to lines that are harder, looser and higher, it might feel like you're starting all over again. You'll see slackliners that have been training for decades and are walking lines beyond your wildest dreams. Be inspired and realise they have dedicated years to their art. Persevere - time is your friend!
6. How Do I Get Better at Slacklining?
Make Your Slackline Setup Different Every Time
Slacklining is a sport where the environment and setup is never going to be identical to the last. There is vast variety in every spot - tree length, tension, height of setup etc. If you have a regular or 'home spot' (where you practice most of the time), make sure you change your setup in tension and height every time you practice, even if just a little. To become a slackliner that's able to have fun on every kind of setup, you need to be able to adjust quickly to lines you aren't familiar with. Differential learning is what you should strive for.
How do you do that? Let's say you're at a spot with an 8 metre distance.
- Day 1: Rig the line at 50cm high
- Day 2: Rig the line at 75cm high with less tension
- Day 3: Rig the line at 1 metre
- Day 4: Change the tension a number of times during your session!
7. How Do I Meet Other Slackliners?
Join a Local Slacklining Group
In spring and summer, most slackline groups in bigger cities are quite active. For example in Amsterdam, 4 days a week people meet up to slackline together. You’re able to rig more slacklines and try diﬀerent setups. This will not only be more fun, but will also boost your diﬀerential learning! By sharing diﬀerent techniques, tricks and lines you’ll get better in no time. How do you ﬁnd your local slackline group? If you see a slackline in the park, go talk to the person on the slackline! Ask them if they know of any groups or communities. There's plenty of local groups on Facebook, all you need do is search. Slacklining communities are often active on Whatsapp to organise sessions.
8. How Do I Identify My Slacklining Mistakes?
Make Videos of Your Practice
Recording your slackline journey has two sides. First of all, you challenge yourself to stick all tricks, moves or skills you gained in one video take. This will help you to gain consistency in your balance abilities; we often need some push not to give up. Secondly, if you post those videos online, other slackliners will be more likely to connect with you and maybe even help you with your journey by giving you hints, ideas or support. You can also identify your own mistakes by analysing the moment you failed a trick or lost balance.
9. How Do I Get Into Highlining?
Practice Longlining & Waterlining First
Highlining is the most underestimated discipline of slacklining. Most people's first thought is, "damn that's high! It must be scary, but wait, you're attached right? Should be doable then."
It's doable - so long as you're willing to take the journey. To get an idea of how hard highlining is, try slacklining above water. Waterlining is super hard because the water is moving underneath you. This messes with your proprioception and makes you fall over in the direction the water is flowing. Your ability to balance is intrinsically linked to your vision. Waterlining takes away the mental struggle of highlining, making it one of the best ways to train for a highline. The same goes for longlining. Although longlining is less trippy for your eyes, it's often more scary because you balancing above solid ground. And if you're walking 2 metres high you'll definitely feel some fear of falling. Conquering this fear will bring you one step closer to your first highline.
In general I'd say if you are able to walk a 30 metre waterline and a 50 metre longline, you're ready to try your first highline with a possibility for success!
10. How Do I Learn New Slacklining Skills?
Watch Videos & Tutorials Online
There are tons of slackline videos online. Tutorials, trickline videos, highline videos. All of these are great inspiration and learning tools. Immerse yourself in slacklining videos.
Here's a handful of tutorials and resources to improve your slacklining:
- My Youtube channel “Jonas Konijnenberg” - slackline inspiration and tutorials
- Slacktivity’s Youtube channel - all varieties of slackline tutorial
- How Not To Highline channel- advanced highline information
If You Have Any Questions, Reach Out
I am beyond grateful of the lessons slacklining has taught me about my body, my persistence and my fears. I'd love to help you on your journey - whether it’s to get you started, learn new tricks or ask something about gear; I am here. Find me on Instagram and drop me a message. Happy slacklining!