Traveling around the world to challenge themselves to new heights is a community of slack liners testing their limits in the sport of highlining. So, what is highlining? This modern wave of tightroping has become a popular outdoor activity across the nation. What’s followed is a diverse group of athletes, thrill-seekers and record holders who have taken the highlining sport to new peaks, quite literally.
The art of walking across a flat-webbed line has evolved over the years, and we’ve seen people go from balancing in between two palm trees to balancing in between two cliffs 500 feet off the ground. Tight wires and tightropes are a thing of the past. A new generation of innovative rope walkers are transforming the practice with the balancing art of slacklining.
The history of highlining
Rope walking has been around for generations now, but the dangerously elevated sport known as highlining didn’t become known until the mid 80s when Scott Balcom walked the first ever highline under a bridge in Pasadena. This single act revolutionized the way people went about this sport.
What was soon to come was an inspired and talented collective that stretched the boundaries of highlining to new limits. Soon, the world started seeing more of this innovative sport, and people like Darrin Carter, Friedi Kuhne and Andy Lewis (famously referred to as “Sketchy” Andy) started practicing highlining in its purest form.
The art of “free solo” walking became one of the greatest – and most dangerous – challenges testing not only the walker’s physical strength but their overall mental strength as well. A free solo highline refers to the act of purposefully walking across the line without a secured harness or anything attaching you to the main line. One of the first instances of a free solo highline was in 1995 when Darrin Carter crossed the Lost Arrow Spire, initiating the launch of this fearless new generation of highliners.
Although the thought of walking across a tubular nylon webbing in between two cliffs may be alarming to most, the idea of walking these lines without any safety nets or harnesses interested athletes dedicated to the most extreme form of this sport. You may be asking yourself why anyone would risk free-falling 500 feet to their death. But to some, chasing the adrenaline of being suspended hundreds of feet off the valley floor without fear feels like home.
World record holders
Touring around the world and perfecting their love for the line are people like Andy Lewis and Spencer Seabrooke, who think of their fearlessness as second hand nature. Showing the world their commitment and dedication, the two thrill-seekers both started seeking ways to surpass the threshold for the longest rigged highlines and free solo world records.
Andy Lewis was the first free Solo World Record Holder in 2010 and 2011 (180-ft long/200-ft high), proving that he was indeed the first to safely walk across a line without the safety of his harness. Soon after, Spencer Seabrooke, a small town adventurist, was the first to break Andy Lewis’s free solo world record and is now the leader behind the SlacklifeBC crew.
Embodying what it means to live life to the fullest, Seabrooke speaks upon the natural progression of this art form; starting off with a basic slackline, transitioning to a highline, then taking the harness off for a free solo. Some may call it staring death in the eyes, but others like Seabrooke would refer to it as “the purest form.” In 2015, Seabrooke broke Lewis’s record, setting the new world record for the longest highline free solo; walking a 950-foot high, 200-foot long line called “The Itus” in Squamish, British Columbia.
This soon ignited the spark for many new faces like Mia Noblet, the current world record holder for longest walk for both men and women, embracing this lifestyle and maximizing the potentialities of this sport. What started off as something you’d normally see in a stereotypical “circus act” has evolved and is now a respected and powerful way of demonstrating one’s mental and physical strength through the ultimate balancing act.
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