The sport where slacking off and eating is expected and encouraged
Levitating above the ground on a line not much wider than your big toe, slackliners use their arms and core to maintain balance while walking along their line suspended between two trees.
Meet the Slackjacks, a new club devoted to sharing the sport of slacklining, not just to HSU students but to the community at large. Established last fall by club president Amanda McDonald, the young club has already partnered with the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust in an effort to spread environmental awareness and protect their slacklining spots.
“We are all environmental stewards, everyone here loves nature,” McDonald said. “The Trinidad Coastal Land Trust approached us after seeing one of our high lines on their beaches.”
Every Saturday, the Slackjacks have stewardship work day, where they volunteer at the Trinidad State Beach aiding in restoration work.
“They [Trinidad Coastal Land Trust] love what we do and we embody their mission,” McDonald said.
Besides the physical preservation work, the Slackjacks impact and connect to the community through the practice of slacklining. Every Sunday, the club sets up in the Arcata Plaza and opens up their lines to the people.
“Slack Sunday isn’t something I can take credit for as a club,” McDonald said. “The Humboldt Slackers are not associated with the school, but they are a group of friends, maybe alumni now, and they started Slack Sunday. It’s all about the young kids and elders, and just holding their hand.”
The connection created between the Slackjacks and the community is far deeper than the physical linkage of hands. Slackliners can enter a state of mind called “the flow state.” In this state of mind one experiences:
Liam Murray-DuMond, is the treasurer of the Slackjacks, and describes the insane euphoric feeling associated with the flow state.
“When you find your flow, I’ve had moments where I black out,” Murray-DuMond said. “I literally don’t remember walking. It’s the highest you can be without doing drugs.”
The flow state occurs when one is faced with a challenge that adequately correlates with the level of skill of the slackliner. This perfect balance in challenge and skill causes one to drift and experience the effects of the flow.
“I’ve seen kids in it when they slackline for the first time, they click with it,” McDonald said. “They want to keep trying and you can see they are getting exposure and want to latch onto it. Kids are very profound with wanting to keep slacklining.”
Slacklining is a physically demanding sport. Buddy Mitchell, a transfer student at HSU and member of the Slackjacks, describes the effect it has on the human body.
“Slacklining is definitely a sport,” Mitchell said. “You sweat, your arms get tired, your tummy gets tired and your core is sore the next day, and your back and your legs.”
While slacklining posesses the physical exertion of other athletic sports, it maintains a heavy emphasis on social interaction and connecting with the community.
“Since there can only be one or two people on a line, a lot of it is sitting down in the park and eating,” jokes Mitchell.
The Slackjacks embrace their club as more of a community of friends. Wanting nothing to do with exclusiveness, the club is constantly reaching out to the community and encouraging others to slackline.
“It’s the highest you can be without doing drugs.”
“I absolutely wanted a club, it provides this,” McDonald says as she looks around the room of members enjoying their Friday potluck. “Otherwise we don’t have this. By not having a club, it would be restricting us from tapping into the community, and all the resources HSU provides, like the ability to create space, education and community.”
With a goal of integrating slacklining into the normalcy of society, McDonald explains how regardless of their positive presence in Arcata, they still receive pushback.
“It’s hard to break through. When climbing evolved into society, people did not like climbers, it was taboo, same with skateboarding in the 90’s, slacklining is exactly like that,” McDonald said. “We’re stuck in this transitional time period, but we want to keep our wholesome values. We don’t want to be non-welcoming or snobby.”
Regardless of the challenges, the Slackjacks continue to practice and share the benefits of their sport.
“I slackline for the feeling. It’s pretty hard to describe, but once you do it you just want to be in that moment and have that feeling as much as possible,” Murray-DuMond said.
Slacklining is one addictive activity that serves not only the individual but the community at large. With a constant emphasis on welcoming others to practice and preserving the communal values they identify with, why wouldn’t you slackline?
“It’s fun, a great way to spend the afternoon, or morning, or evening,” Buddy said. “I can’t really put it into words, I do it for different reasons. Mostly, it’s very social, probably the most social thing to do, and the easiest way to make friends.”
Between Friday club meetings in Siemens hall, Slack Sundays in the Arcata Plaza and environmental steward work Saturdays, the Slackjacks are hard to miss.
“I know we look crazy but come try!” McDonald jokes.