by Liam Gwynn
Ethereal flute, harmonious tarot prophecies, and a faint vaguely skunkish smell: you’d think it was a description of a sixties wet dream. However, you would be wrong, that dream is very much alive in Humboldt county, particularly with a group of students who have started a slacklining group that meets every Sunday.
Before the pandemic, Cal Poly Humboldt had a thriving slacklining community with a club that would meet weekly. The club fell apart in 2020, however, one former member has gathered a group of fellow slackers and begun the process of getting this group turned into an official club at Cal Poly Humboldt. Joseph Aguilar, organizer of the prospective slacklining club, joined the original club in 2019 and has been slacklining ever since.
“I love how when you’re on [the slackline] it’s just you, you have to be focused and present, and in that moment and you have to be hyperaware of all the muscles in your body,” Aguilar said. “It’s really good for core strength and all sorts of stuff.”
Aguilar decided to start throwing “Slack Sundays” with a group of his friends and it gradually blossomed into a communal gathering of musicians, slack enthusiasts, and an assortment of nature lovers.
The atmosphere at “Slack Sunday” was laid back and welcoming. Unlike many sports activities, there was no sort of competitive spirit or pressure to perform perfectly. People stretched back on picnic blankets and relaxed while others painted, played a variety of instruments, gave tarot card readings, threw a frisbee, and even tossed around a boomerang. Others came just to meet new people and hang out.
The skill levels at “Slack Sunday” were equally diverse. For some, it was their first time and veterans held their hands and gave tips on how to cross. On the opposite side of the spectrum, genuine professionals showed off their skills with remarkable tricks on a line five feet off the ground.
One of those professionals was Gabriela Vargas. She started by slacklining in her hometown Mexico City and moved to the US after receiving a sponsorship for competing in a trick line competition. Vargas originally moved to Colorado but was attracted to Arcata because of the slacklining culture that exists here.
One issue that many professional slackliners face is debilitating injuries. Vargas said one injury she had forced her out of the competitive space after a leg injury that took six months to recover.
“I like to take my healing slow, because if you don’t let it fully heal and just go back to doing it, it can get chronic and I don’t want that to happen,” said Vargas.
Despite the setback from her injuries, Vargas has continued to expand her skills and has become proficient in highline, when a slackliner is harnessed to the slackline and balances over massive heights. Vargas showed a picture of her slacklining over an incredible drop of over 6,500 feet.
People enjoy slacklining for a variety of reasons but one central theme is the benefits of achieving mental and physical balance when on the line. The appointed treasurer of the prospective club Ella Feick explained how her passion for slacklining stemmed from that need for balance.
“You’re thinking in your head, you’re breathing in your body, and you’re focusing on your balance in a way that you’re not typically. If you’re stressed out or having a hard day you can’t really be thinking about all that stuff, you’re just there,” Feick said. “It’s a very present activity.”
“Slack Sundays” are hosted every Sunday from 12-5 p.m. at the Mad River Pump Station 4 – Disc Golf Course.