City slackers

Local slackline walkers—it’s kind of like a tightrope, but looser and bouncier—do it in the park

At UNR’s Manzanita Bowl, Jenna Talbott walks the line, while, from left, fellow slackliners Arika Domanick, Casey Ernst, Kristen Renda and Austin Boren look on.

At UNR’s Manzanita Bowl, Jenna Talbott walks the line, while, from left, fellow slackliners Arika Domanick, Casey Ernst, Kristen Renda and Austin Boren look on.

Photo By Dana Nöllsch

Setting up their slackline at Riverside Park just west of downtown Reno, Austin Boren and Kristen Renda speak of slacklining as if they’re talking about heroin.

“It’s addictive,” says Boren.

Renda nods her head in agreement, gazing over at their slackline, which is set up between two poles.

“The more you do it, the more you want to do it,” adds Renda.

And what a beautiful Friday afternoon to do it. It’s the first day the sun has been out in a long time. An open patch of grass, poles in close proximity. How could they resist?

During the couple of hours this group of mostly UNR students are at the park, many people walk by staring in confusion. Some stop to find out just what it is they’re doing and why. Not terribly invalid questions to ask, given that slacklining is still relatively new in Reno. The complete answer isn’t necessarily a short one, however.

Reportedly originating in Yosemite Valley, Calif., in the late 1970s, slacklining is a sport that consists of tying nylon webbing between two anchor points, such as trees or poles, and walking across. It’s different from tightrope-walking because the line is loose and flat, giving it a trampoline-feel, as opposed to round and rigid. While competitions are held worldwide, slacklining is usually done non-competitively and socially.

Slack like me

There are four main types of slacklining: tricklining, doing tricks on the slackline; yoga slacklining, doing yoga on the slackline; waterlining, slacklining over a body of water; and highlining, slacklining high above the ground. Tricklining and yoga slacklining seem to be the most popular locally.

Slacklining is a growing sport worldwide and has increased in popularity in Reno over the past few years. Aside from the occasional traveler setting up during a visit, slacklining established itself in Reno a little over 12 years ago at Rocksport, an indoors rock climbing facility.

That’s where it all started for Renda, Boren and their group of “slacker” buddies. Mickey Clark, a good friend of the group, encountered slacklining at Rocksport and, a little over a year ago, introduced it to them. They haven’t been the same since.

In the duration of about an hour at the park, they receive the same questions from people time and time again. Is it for a class? Are you guys practicing for a show? These are common assumptions, but they don’t capture the reason for why they do it.

“People don’t get it,” Boren says. “It’s just fun.”

Jenna Talbott, Laura Green and a few other friends arrive at the park and greet the group. While a couple of them drop off their stuff and walk the line, Talbott joins the discussion, adding to the reasons why slacklining is so great.

“It’s so undefined,” says Talbott. “There’s so much room for exploration.”

Talbott appreciates the fact that slacklining isn’t really teachable, due to its undefined nature. This is her favorite part of slacklining, the fact that you just have to learn it on your own.

The open-endedness of slacklining, according to Talbott, reflects the time period more than the sport itself.

“It seems very representative of our postmodern society because there aren’t any rules,” Talbott says. “Just make it up. There’s never going to be a rule book.”

Renda also loves this freedom.

Slacklining is “a pretty damn good workout,” says Kristen Renda.

Photo By Dana Nöllsch

“You get to invent anything you want,” Renda says. “Even if other people are doing it, you still invented it.”

Green loves the social outcome slacklining brings about.

“It’s really community building,” Green says.

Talbott experienced this community building on a whole new level when she went to live in a jungle in Ecuador last year. There was a language barrier present with those she lived with. They could barely communicate with one other. Once she broke out the slackline, it all changed. About 35 people tried slacklining that day. The kids especially loved it. Due to this event, the tribe gave Talbott her jungle name: Tsiri Noir, which means lady spider.

“That connected us,” Talbott says.

The sport serves as a wonderful exercise, as well. It works out core muscles and improves balance, among other things.

“It’s a pretty damn good workout,” Renda says.

“Yeah, I have amazing legs,” Boren adds, causing laughter among the group.

“We know, we know,” Green replies sarcastically.

Walk the line

According to Maria Quinones, who owns Slackline Brothers, Inc. and helps run, slacklining works out more than just your body.

“It affords humanity a new way of doing things, from physical wellness to mental clarity and freedom,” Quinones wrote in a recent email. “Slacklining has tremendous therapeutic properties, literally [improving your] balance, mind, body and spirit.”

Yoga slacklining achieves similar results. Talbott says their group has done a little bit of yoga slacklining but not much.

Sam Salwei and Jason Magness started yoga slacklining in Estes Park, Colo. Salwei thinks adding yoga to the slackline enhances the slacklining experience.

“Without yoga on the slackline, you’re limited to walking, jumping and turning around,” Salwei wrote via email. “Adding yoga to the slackline both gives you a place to take your slackline practice and gives you a framework for your play time. It also adds a level of discipline, focus and increased concentration.”

Salwei says that Reno specifically would benefit from yoga slacklining, since it’s a burgeoning outdoor town.

“Yoga slacklining is a great tool for cross training, as well as a fantastic venue for meeting people in the outdoor world,” Salwei says. “So many people from Reno ski and snowboard, hike and bike, swim and skate—yoga slacklining would benefit them by providing them an alternative way to train their body and mind.”

Kate Armstrong, a Rocksport employee, thinks slacklining in general benefits Reno and adds to the city’s nuance.

“It’s just another fringe sport we can offer diverting from the usual that you can find somewhere else,” Armstrong, a slackliner herself, says. “It’s very rare to find it anywhere.”

The future of slacklining remains a cloudy topic for this group of Reno slackers. They think it might grow and branch off into different categories, reaching out to different groups of people. They’re not sure, though.

Talbott, however, responds to the question of the future as if to deliver an executive consensus for the group.

“We don’t know what the future holds, we just walk the line,” says Talbott.