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We spoke to professional slackliner, Faith Dickey, who is taking one of our favourite activities to new heights…

 

Slacklining is a Scout favourite – can you explain what it is for those that don’t know?

Slacklining is a balance sport where you walk along a flat, dynamic rope stretched between two points. Obviously tightrope walking is different because the ropes are steel cables pulled tight and tightrope walkers tend to use a pole for balance – we don’t. Slackliners use their arms and posture for balance.

I got into it in my home town – there was a slackline set up in my local park so I tried it and thought it was way too hard. I kept going back and got better and then developed a passion and a love for it. I eventually tried highlining and fell in love with it completely.

Highlining?

Highlining is simply slacklining up high.I went to a festival and first tried it there – the line was only about 20 metres off the ground and 14 metres long, which is pretty short. It was really scary – I tried a few times but fell a lot of times. But I was determined to get better at it.

Have you always been adventurous?

I’m from Texas so I was never exposed to mountains or extreme heights or anything extreme – other than rattlesnakes! I’ve always had a stubborn personality and a strong will so if I’ve wanted something I’ve always just gone for it.

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Have you broken world records?

I didn’t set out to break records but I was so devoted to the sport that I quickly broke the female record in the beginning and continued to break my own records.

When I first started highlining I broke the female record of 40m by walking a 50m highline. Now, I have the female record for highline distance at 105m long. I have the female record for longest slackline walked over water at 140m and I have the female world record for longest highline walked with no safety, at 28m long.

I also have the previous female world record for longest longline at 222m. The new record was set at 230m. I hope to walk a 300m longline this year!

What’s the scariest place you’ve highlined?

I try to highline in as many different types of places as possible. There’s something about the exposure you have under you. All highlines are scary but if you’re really high off the ground it can be a lot more challenging. I travel a lot and I go to Yosemite in California, which is the birthplace of the sport. Yosemite is hands down the scariest place – you are so high off the ground. Most of the lines are at least 900 metres high; you hike up four miles and set up a highline and you’re surrounded by exposure, wind and a huge drop – it’s really intense.

I’ll also train in parks and tie lines between trees, but really long – 100-200 metres. It’s a great way to train the body. It’s all about stamina and endurance. My longest highline is 105 metres, and that took about 12-15 minutes to cross – and that much time spent with dealing with fear, failure, the hot temperature etc, it’s a real challenge.

What do you think about when you’re 900 feet high – do you ever look down?

I try not to – for me it’s a big enough challenge without looking down!

I think about a lot of things – it’s amazing where your mind goes. The ideal is not thinking anything – that’s why a lot of people connect highlining to meditation because it can be a meditative state you’re in. Most of the time that’s hard to achieve and my mind is racing with thoughts of fear, failure, of being tired – any kind of problems in my life that might just creep in. And if you think about falling, you’ll fall. When I’m having a hard time on the line I’ll scream at myself!

I sometimes listen to music too.I’ll listen to electronic hip-hop – music that has a really good rhythm and beat. Occasionally I’ll listen to dubstep if I know I’m going to have a really good fight on the line. Some acoustic stuff too – with good baselines and rhythm. Rhythm is really important – I don’t want a lot of dramatic changes in the music. Music is a helpful reminder that I am walking a line for fun.

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What’s the next big challenge for you?

I’m always looking for something new to challenge myself. I’m always trying to go longer on both highlines and low lines. Currently I’m trying to break my distance record in both the low and high categories. I also try to approach highlining in different ways. I’ve highlined in high heels – I love combining humour and fear and finding new challenges that are unusual and funny. I love walking in costumes and stuff like that. 

I’m also avid about sharing the love of slacklining with the rest of the world. I have to create a lot of my work, like a freelance artist really – I perform, do commercials and I’ve done public speaking.

Would you recommend the slacklining life?

Definitely – I think slacklining is for every single person on the planet. It’s life changing – you don’t have to go to the lengths I have to appreciate it – you can go to the park and set up a line with your friend.

Any words of wisdom for our Scouts?

The important thing to remember is: don’t let fear be a guiding force in your life. You are always capable of much more than you think.

 

Check out some of Faith’s jaw-dropping adventures at thatslacklinegirl.com

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