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Every year I try and make a trip out to Europe for some sort of slackline adventure. This year I decided to spend some time in Germany, Poland, and Czech Republic. It turned out to be one of the best trips i've ever been on. I met so many wonderful people, saw so many wonderful things, and walked tons of incredible highlines and slacklines.
I arrived in Berlin on the 1st of August and was greeted by Jordan and Janek in their awesome work van, which turned out to be where I would spend a lot of my time over the next 2 weeks. They were right in the middle of a rope access job when they came to pick me up, so we had to go and finish that up. This was really cool to see these guys in action in their job. They had to paint a small patch on the side of this 4 story building on a static line. This type of work seems like it's very rewarding and it also helps builds the rigging skills for slacklining.
After we were finished there, we decided to go back to Janek's house and pickup Preston and do some longlining in TrepTower Park! This legendary park is thee place in Berlin for massive longlines. We setup a 200m and a 150m long line and we were only taking about 1/10 of the size of this park. You can easily setup a 500m line all the way across this park. Such a cool spot! We walked these lines until it got dark. By this point, I had been awake for more than 30 hours, so I was utterly exhausted.
We went back to Janek's house and crashed. Over the next few days, Janek, Preston, and I all did various training. We setup more longlines, we went climbing at this very cool climbing gym (Ostbloc), and we had an amazing day of waterlining! It took us more than 2 hours to get to the waterline spot via train and bus, but man was it worth it! We had a ton of fun walking more than 10 waterlines ranging from 50 feet long all the way up to 350 feet! It was the perfect spot for waterlines and the water was warm! Such a fun day. Janek got his longest (at that time) waterline send almost onsight. Incredible job Janek! Walking these lines makes me realize that I need to work on my waterline skills! Walking long waterlines is so much different than both lowlines and highlines. It's an excellent skill to have as it makes you such a better slackliner.
Over the next couple of days, Janek, Preston and I started to prepare the gear for the Urban Highline Festival. I wanted to do as much pre-rigging as we could in order to minimize the time spent at the festival rigging. This proved to be an excellent thing to do as our rigging was extremely efficient this year compared to past years. We pre-taped all the lines, pre-built several pulley systems, marked all the gear, and grouped all the lines with leashes. This made it so that we could grab a single bag and know that it was ready to rigged as a highline. This took us almost 6 hours to prepare everything. By the end, we had SO MUCH gear, it was incredible. This on top of all of our personal gear ended up being almost too much for our gear van, which was enormous!
After spending several days in Berlin with Preston, Janek, and Jordan, it was time for us to head to Poland for the Urban Highline Festival! It was 10 hour drive with a short stop in Wrocław for even more gear! I couldn't believe that we were able to fit everything in this van with 5 people! It wasn't even cramped...so crazy.
After a super long drive that seemed to go on forever, we finally arrive in Lublin at 5 AM. The light was already starting to show and we had plans to rig almost all of the lines the next day! We setup in our hostel and got as much sleep as we could. We then started our rigging mission at 9 AM the next day. We started with the main town square where we rigged 5 highlines all the way around the building. It's so cool to be able to setup lines over an old city that is full of people. It's great to see everyones reaction when you are walking the line above them. It's a lot different than a normal highline experience.
Due to access issues, we weren't able to rig any other lines until later on in the festival. We had two other areas that we needed to setup to complete the festival. That was okay though because we got to hang out with all the amazing people that were starting to show up at the festival. Compared to last year, it seemed like we were going to have much more free time to mingle and actually slackline!
Over the next few days we setup all the other highlines for the festival which included the Church Line, which was most definitely the most spectacular setup at the festival, and the two big lines, which were a huge hit. I'll get to these lines later.
A lot of new additions were made to UHF this year that made it stand out as the best one yet. During the nights we would have talks given by several different people on different subjects. Dominika Zapotoczna provided several workshops for loosening your body and realizing goals. She also gave a few talks on her sports psychology research which were extremely informative and very helpful. There were also talks given by Preston Alden about his Alpine Highline projects, Damian Cooksey about his long Yosemite Falls highline, Lukas Irmler about the Luke Skywalker, Theo Sanson about walking slacklines with blindfolds, and a few others. All of these talks were incredibly inspiring and show how diverse the sport is. I came away from this part of the festival with tons of ideas for future projects.
In addition to these awesome new additions to the festival, there was also a new contest! For the first time ever there was a highline battle where two highliners get on the same highline on opposite sides and try to knock the other off. It was such a funny contest that everyone enjoyed (especially the bystanders below). I don't recall who won the contest, but it ended up being extremely close. To add to the sillyness, people were dressing up in crazy costumes while they were battling. Such a cool addition to the festival that will most definitely be back next year.
There was also a trickline competition this year. This was pretty cool, as trickline comps usually are. I had the honor of being a judge for the competition, which entailed sitting in the least comfortable chair I have ever sat in for 6 straight hours. At least I got free pretzels out of the deal! Danny Menšík won the comp like a boss! That kid has some serious potential to be the best slackliner on the planet. He's already walking massively long slacklines as well as placing in big trickline competitions. His progression is incredible.
Since I had a lot more free time this year, I got to walk around to all the highlines and talk to many of the 206 slackliners from 22 different countries that were at the festival. There were so many stoked slackliners this year, it was so amazing. I always love to see all these people enjoying slacklining just as much or even more than I do! This sport is growing at such an amazing and explosive rate, it's so exciting! Not only this, but everyone is doing it in their own way. The diversity within the sport is incredible! I cannot wait to see what it is in 5 years from now.
On the last day of the festival, we had a dedicated riggers and special guest session on the long highlines. During this time, I got to see all my old slackline friends shredding on the big highlines. It's so crazy to see how skilled these guys are from around the world. Just 1 year ago, some of these guys were just starting out highlining or were walking lines that were half the size of these big ones. I feel so privileged to be a part of this.
After we packed up everything from the festival and said our goodbyes to everyone, Preston and I decided to go with Faith Dickey to Ostrov in Czech Republic for our last few days in Europe. This proved to be a great decision. We setup Island King, which is a 185 foot long highline between two sandstone towers. This line is so cool! I walked it for about 3 hours straight, walking back and forth at least 20 times. I felt so at home at this place. I came here three years ago with Jordan, Janek, Faith, and Kwjet to setup a big highline, which was Master of the Universe. Coming back to this place was very powerful as that line was one of the first lines I pushed myself to the limit on.
In addition to highlining, Preston, Danny, and I all did this really cool sandstone climb. I'm not much of a climber, but climbing in the Czech style without shoes and no chalk was so cool! It makes me want to explore climbing a bit more as another discipline.
Spending this final day in Ostrov was really special. This place has a certain aura about it that makes it feel like home. Someday I would love to have a house near this place.
After Ostrov, Preston and I made our way back to Berlin to catch our flights back to the US. I have to say that this trip to Europe was especially awesome. I got to meet so many incredible people who are all stoked on slacklining! I also got to see so many cool things in Berlin, Lublin, and Ostrov. I can honestly say that my life has changed as a result of this trip to Europe.
Thank you to all the wonderful people I met, stay stoked! Hopefully we can all meet again in the future Urban Highline Festivals.