When I was a child I was deathly afraid of heights. My brothers would make fun of me because I would not get on a roller coaster or an elevator with windows. I was afraid to even look at the little crack between the elevator frame and floor. My oldest brother was a rock climber and wanted to help me get over my fear so I would be able to enjoy a sensation that he love so much. He took me to the mountains and taught me how to belay and rappel. After a while I was confident enough to climb about ten meters before having to come down still never looking down, still terrified of heights.
I enjoyed the technical challenge of climbing the rocks so I pursued, with a friend, indoor rock climbing at the local gym. One day my climbing buddy showed me a video of someone walking unattached on a line between two rocks 875 meters high. Just watching the video scared me but I began to think, “if this person is able to walk on this rope, why am I afraid of an elevator?” I told my friend somewhat jokingly, “Lets go get a piece of webbing like that and start walking!” he answered right back, “Lets do it!”. We went to the rock gym and bought a piece of webbing immediately. In the park we attached it between two trees a couple feet off the ground and began trying to walk. It was not as easy as the guy in the video made it seem, let alone thousands of feet off the ground. After a couple of days of trying we were finally able to balance on it for a couple seconds, then longer and longer. A week later I was able to walk most of the 8 meter-long line we had set up every day. The feeling of balancing on a moving rope became addicting.
I was tired of being held back by my fear. I was afraid of so many in my life, heights, girls, crowds of people, snakes, dancing and many more things that would otherwise bring me pleasure. Heights was going to be the first I took action to overcome. I had become quite good at walking on the line and was able to do a bunch of tricks, I was even able to jump and land back on the line. I wanted so much to be free of this fear and walk high above the treetops but I soon ran in to a little problem in my development. The police did not seem to like it so much and told me I was no longer able to practice in the park. I was quite disappointed that in a city plagued with gang violence the police took the time to stop a healthy activity that did no harm to anyone. I immediately approached the parks and recreations department to see what could be done about it. I wrote an amendment to the ordinance that prohibited my practice and presented it to the city board. Salinas, California became the first city in America to officially allow slackline.
In my quest to legalize slackline I learned much more about a practice I knew so little about. I was helped tremendously by the slackline community that I had found on an online forum. I met many people who shared my passion to walk on ropes but most importantly I found people walking highlines.
After looking at tons of pictures of people walking high in the air, my desire to let go of my fear and go for it grew. I read many posts on technical rigging information and found the member writing the most informative posts containing precise numbers and knowledge on rigging. Damian Cooksey, then holding the world record for longest line and longest highline walked, was my man. I wrote him an email and asked if I could join him on his next highline expedition, hoping he would say yes, fearing he would say no. Two days later he replied, telling me to meet him that Saturday at the trail head of a mountain four hours away from where I lived at 6am.
I spent that Friday night at a friends house in San Francisco and woke up at 3:45 in the morning to hit the road. I spent the morning with Damian C. and Andy Lewis learning how to safely rig a highline and that afternoon after everyone had walked it was my turn. With all confidence I tied the leash to my harness then to the line. I sat on the line and tried to stand up before the fear set in. The line quickly moved out from under my feet and I fell and caught the line. Hanging there my fear came back strong and I began to shake. The memories from my childhood came back, every roller coaster I chickened out of, every flight of stairs I walked down instead of taking the elevator and the rope course at summer camp that I was terrified of. I quickly pushed my thoughts aside and pulled myself back up onto the line. Again and again I fell and caught the line. On what was supposed to be my last try I fell and was unable to catch the line. Hanging from my leash exhausted, Damian told me they had to take the line down so I should give it one more go. I remounted and told myself, “If I am able to walk a line double this length close to the ground I can walk this line. I stood up and walked the entire line and then walked it back. This was a major victory for me, finally I had not been held back by my fear and performed something not many people do. I chuckled at the thought that all my brothers would probably be scared of what I just did.
Since that day I have not been able to work a normal job behind a computer or in a restaurant without thinking about being in the mountains. I realized that fear held me back from enjoying life fully and the things I was afraid of were all things I would most likely love. This realization led me to a new passion, getting over fear to discover new sensations.
I have continued to develop my skills on and off the line, pushing my self in many different ways and learning valuable lessons of life. There is nothing but the present moment and to not be in the here and now is suffering. I have found peace and flexibility through my daily practice of yoga. Yoga combined with rope walking provides me with a complete practice that helps me grow stronger and more balanced, mentally and physically. I have always believed that I am one of the happiest people alive.
Whats your longest line?
I have successfully walked a 431 foot line. I just got a five hundred foot piece of webbing so I will do longer soon!
Do you have any current projects?
One project I am currently working on with two friends is the establishing of the Canadian Slackline Association. We have the desire to see slackline grow and become accepted in our communities. Through this we are working to legalize slackline in Montréal and in any cities where there are enough slackliners together to make it happen. We eventually will offer a location designed especially for slackline.
What is slackline to you?
It is my practice. It has changed the way I think about life. Your personality comes out so much in your style of walking. Your posture, strong points and weak points are all parallel to your way of thinking. After starting, it took over my life! I love what I do, and any job I work in the mean time is to help me on my path to be able to live off of my passion.
What do you see yourself doing later in your career as a slackliner?
I will continue developing strength, style, technique and experience. Continuing my quest for knowledge of the body and mind I am working on developing myself to a point where I can efficiently teach people a healthy practise. I love to work with children and hope to establish a school for training the art of balance.
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