There aren’t lions, tigers or bears, but if you were in Gibbons Park on a recent Saturday, you were in for quite the surprise. People in costumes were floating in the air; they seemed to magically rise.

Each Saturday this summer, a small group of people have met in Gibbons Park to slackline. I am one of them. Slacklining is the art of balancing on a piece of flat webbing between two anchor points. There are many types of lines available to buy. There are 2-inch wide lines that come ready with a ratchet, so you can get set up in no time. There are also more primitive set-ups with a thinner piece of webbing.

You can do tricks, which are quite the treat, walk over canyons and bodies of water, use the line like a rodeo clown, or walk the line. It’s actually much harder than meets the eye.

Spooky Slacklining

A recent Saturday fell on Halloween. We proposed the idea of bringing costumes and marking the occasion. Slacklining comes with plenty of excitement. We anticipated this session to be more enjoyable than usual. Costumes tend to liven the mood.

Hazel Whorley (The Grim Reaper) while slacklining in Gibbons Park for Halloween 2020 - Photo by Elizabeth McDonald
Hazel Whorley (as The Grim Reaper) slacklining in Gibbons Park for Halloween 2020. Photo by Elizabeth McDonald.

Hazel Whorley started slacklining a few years ago after trying the sport at The Junction, London’s climbing gym. She was soon hooked. She shared that one of the benefits of slacklining is being outside. “I like socializing with people, and being outdoors in the park is a good way to socialize without getting too close to people or being at risk with the pandemic right now,” said Hazel.

When asked what he loves about slacklining, Ates Avci explained, “slacklining is just like a meditation. When you’re on the line, you are in the moment; you’re there, where you should be. I mean, if you’re not in the moment, then you will fall eventually. I think [being present] is the most important thing in this world, in our lives, and it forces you to practice that.”

Ates Avci (as a Woodland Sprite) balances in a sit-start position on a 1-inch slackline. Photo by Elizabeth McDonald.

Hazel also spoke to the meditative aspect of slacklining. “When I’m walking along the line, it feels like you have to tune everything out. So it feels like a sort of walking meditation. I think regular meditation, I tried it before, to sort of calm anxiety and that sort of thing. And it never really worked for me because I always find my mind wandering. So I have to do something more active with way more focus, and this and rock climbing were really good for me to do.”

My Slacklining Experience

Elizabeth McDonald (as Mary Crawley) balances in slacker stance. Photo by Hazel Whorley.
Elizabeth McDonald (as Mary Crawley) balances in slacker stance. Photo by Hazel Whorley.

I dressed as Mary from BBC’s Downton Abbey. The character lived through Spanish Influenza. I began slacklining in May of 2020 as a way to stay active during the pandemic. It’s helped me more than I ever could have imagined.

If I am having a bad day and step on the line, my mood will transfer. I will barely be able to stand, let alone walk. It’s only with deep breaths that my mind and the line begin to still. The same metaphor can apply to my life. It’s difficult to see the reverberations of that tension as quickly as you can when slacklining. If there is one thing the pandemic gave me, it is the joy of slacklining and people to do it with.

For anyone who enjoys slacklining and is willing to brave the cold and the pandemic, more information about meeting times is available on the Slackline London Ontario Facebook group.

Feature photo of Ates Avci and Hazel Whorley slacklining in Gibbons Park by Elizabeth McDonald.

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