Walking on a ‘Slack’ Rope CU student building slacklining community in Boulder


Posted Fri, Oct 29, 2010

BOULDER, Colo. — Walk around Colorado University at Boulder’s Norlin Quad and you are bound to find yourself in a scene right out of a college catalog. Students throwing footballs and Frisbees while others lay out, trying to enjoy the fall weather while it lasts. Yet walk around on a Thursday afternoon and you might think you have walked upon a traveling circus preparing for their next high wire act.

CU Boulder’s Woman’s Resource Center has recently added a women’s slackline course to its list of activities. Slackline is a cross between tight rope walking and bouncing on a trampoline. The line’s tension is set to allow the line to move, enabling participants to use the line as a springboard.

CU student Hayley Ashburn, one of the top female slackliner’s in the world teaches the course. Ashburn describes the experience of being on the slackline as one of total focus. “You get in the zone…your whole body is tense but you can’t do it without relaxing. People aren’t far off when they call it moving meditation. If you can’t focus, you can’t walk. It doesn’t matter how strong you are.”

Ashburn, who is sponsored by Gibbon Slacklines, has competed in several invitational tournaments in Germany, including the World Championship in Friedrickschaffen. It was there that she took the top prize in the woman’s category. While Ashburn is proud of her accomplishments in competition, her true passion is getting more women on a slackline.

“It’s really wonderful to see these women I taught coming back and getting on longer lines now and starting to be curious about how can I do these trick…it makes me proud,” said Ashburn.

“It’s all about showing that girls are capable of doing this, because there are not a lot of women in the community.”

The community of slackliners in the United States is quiet small, despite the sport getting its start in California during the 1970s. France and Germany are considered to be at the forefront of the sport when it comes to public exposure. Ashburn’s goal is to foster a community of slackliners in Boulder.

“The cool thing about slackline is that for every slackline you give away, 5 more people get addicted… once you try it, it is so much fun,” said Ashburn. Considering the passion her students show for the sport, Ashburn is well on her way to building that community in Boulder.

“If I don’t slackline every week, its like I get sick,” said CU student Stephanie Lee. Lee has been slacklining for a month now and is slowly working on moving on the line. “I’m a little scared of walking,” said Lee as she describes some of the videos she has seen of people getting their toes caught and sliced in the line. Yet despite her fears, Lee cannot pass up an opportunity to get on a slackline. “Its like mediation once you get on one spot.”

While slacklining might seem like a sport that requires months of dedicated work just to learn how to stand on the line, many of Ashburn’s students said the opposite was true. “If you focus on it for a good couple of hours here and there …in a weeks span, you can start walking,” said CU student Kim Abcouwer, who has been slacklining for three years.

Most slackliners tend to be climbers who were just looking for a way to strengthen their core. “Unlike climbing…you have that instant reward of learning a trick…and you know that trick forever,” said Cassandra Miertschin, a 21-year-old transfer student from Texas, who has been slacklining since August.

For Ashburn, the sport is not just about doing splits and flips. It is about the community slacklining builds. “It is totally a social activity,” said Ashburn. “That is why you make so many friends out here.” Ashburn is doing everything to make this sport more popular, especially among women. Yet more people slacklining means more competition at tournaments for Ashburn.

While Ashburn lost in her last tournament, she seemed almost elated at the level of competition she is seeing at slacklining events. “Its really wonderful to have competition popping up because it means that the community is growing,” said Ashburn.

One Response to “Walking on a ‘Slack’ Rope CU student building slacklining community in Boulder”

  1. Del Ashburn Says:

    Really thrilled and proud to read all this about you,Haley.congratulations to you for all the effort and accomplishments.


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