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Slackliners try to find balance on sands of the South Bay

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Mira Costa senior Beck Cherry balances on a slackline he set up in Manhattan Beach last week. Photo by Kyra Williams

 

by Kyra Williams

Beck Cherry, a senior at Mira Costa High School, finds peace in an unusual place: balanced on a narrow length of rope.

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Cherry is one of the South Bay’s slackliners. The activity involves standing on a “line” — usually made of nylon and measuring as little as one inch wide — strung between two supports. A member of the school’s champion surf team, Cherry said that slacklining is good practice.

“Slacklining to me is a form of meditation because you have to calm your mind and focus on your balance and your core,” Cherry said. “It is almost like surfing without the element of the ocean. It is another form of relaxation for me.”

According to an article in the New York Times, slacklining began almost 40 years ago in Eugene, Ore. when a man named Adam Grosowsky tied climber’s webbing between two trees. He was inspired by seeing a rock climber in Yosemite walk along a chain tied between two poles.

Slacklining resembles the circus trick of tightrope walking, but the lines are typically strung much closer to the ground, to minimize the consequences of falling. Beginners usually start with just trying to walk across the line, while the more advanced might jump or even balance on their hands.

The sport has exploded in popularity in recent years, driven in part by fitness trends emphasizing balance and core strength. A slacklining kit is now the 10th most popular climbing product on Amazon.

But it continues to face obstacles. Last month, Hermosa Beach resident Ron Siegel said he and his family were slacklining near the Manhattan Beach Pier when a police officer demanded that they take the line down. In an email sent to the Manhattan department following the incident, Siegel questioned why he was targeted.  

“I’m not sure if you’re familiar with slacklining, but it is a standing or walking meditation, and over the sand is the safest place to practice it. Adults and kids alike can and do enjoy the sport,” he wrote.

Siegel said he and his family typically practice at Noble Park near the Hermosa Pier, a favorite spot for South Bay slackliners. He said that he got some trouble when he first began slacklining years ago but has not had problems recently.

Officials with Hermosa’s Department of Recreation and Community Resources did not immediately return calls and emails asking about city regulations on slacklining. Along with the risk associated with falling, slacklining websites warn that an improperly assembled slackline could harm someone nearby if it were to detach, because of the tension in the rope. (Most kits instruct users to tie off the rigging equipment to prevent this from happening.)  

Cherry said he has only been bothered once while slacklining, and found it “hard to believe” that the activity would create a nuisance for others. This may have something to do with the easygoing atmosphere slacklining inspires. Cherry said that it is considered good etiquette to reattach nets on volleyball courts if a slackliner takes them down. And people who practice the activity, he said are usually willing to share.

“I have never been denied a slackline; if someone has a slackline up they always allow me to try it,” Cherry said. “I always have people asking me to try mine and I’ll help them with it. It’s a social thing and it’s really fun. It’s another fun thing to do when you hang out at the beach.”

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