Tips for Tensioning Your Slackline
A Lesson from Jason Fautz of SlackTech
Tension is one of the easiest things to play with on a slackline. And I’m not talking body tension here, I’m talking line tension. When most people start slacklining (I’ll place myself in this group) it is common to rig the line just a few feet off the ground and get it as tight as possible. It’s a fantastic way to become familiar with the slackline. But when new challenges are sought, it might be worth changing the slacklines’ tension before going out and switching up your rig.
Joel Pinnok with a double drop knee at Steel Head Falls in Central Oregon.
WHY You Should Experiment With Tension
When I say change up the tension, what am I actually talking about? Well, slacklines do not have to be rigged tight as a wire. In fact, they are called slack-lines for a reason; they can be rigged loosely. This is a really good way to change up your routine and become familiar with the slower, less energetic movements of the slackline. Experiencing the slower movements and different dynamics of a shorter, lose line will also make the progression to longlining a little more conceivable. In a way, longlines and lose lines, behave very similarly. The commonality between them is that the feedback or energy expressed by the line slows down or is reduced, making controlling and corrective movements much slower as well. It’s a fun dynamic to explore! The most noticeable difference, but not the most obvious difference between longlining and basic slacklines is weight. Yeah they’re longer but a longline is going to have much more mass to keep under control when compared against a shorter line.
Chad Slavin at Drake Park in Bend, OR walking a regular, low slackline.
Anchors 3.5 ft from ground.
Both 2 inch and 1 inch slacklines can be used for this, but it’s yet another area where 1 inch webbing excels. Setting up a loose line can be simpler than a tight one because you’re not going to need much if any of the tensioning system. Just remember, in order to make the line looser, you’re likely going to have to move the anchors higher, maybe even significantly higher. The type of webbing will also make a difference in anchor height. Tubular nylon webbing is going to stretch much more than polyester making surfing over short distances incredibly fun.
Chad Slavin at Drake Park in Bend, OR walking a loose/rodeo style slackline.
Anchors 7 ft from ground.
HOW To Tension a Slackline
Start by building two strong anchors with webbing slings or multiple passes of soft rope and clip a carabiner to each. This may involve climbing into trees in order to get the anchors onto that perfectly positioned branch. To rig the line start at one anchor sling and clove hitch the webbing to the carabiner. This will be the static side. As a side note, this is one of the only places where using knots in webbing is acceptable. It’s an ok practice to do with tubular nylon and polyester webbing because the load on the webbing is going to be significantly less than on a line rigged close to the ground. Webbing generally reduces in strength when it’s knotted.
A linelock used in a basic primitive system (left). A clove hitch used in low tension applications.
Not recommended for longline or highline use (right).
On the other end, build a standard Ellington tensioning system and apply a small amount of tension into it. You don’t need much with webbing like tubular nylon because it has so much stretch. When we compared the two rigs with a dynamometer as pictured above, we were able to reduce the standing tension by 129 lbs over a distance of roughly 60 feet. We did that by raising the anchors by 3 feet and keeping the sag to where there was only a few inches above the ground in the middle. Easy peezy.
The dynamics will change a little but it’s a great way to work on movements and poses while on a simple slackline system. The style of rigging looser lines is called Rodeo-lining. Rodeo-style is also a great way to rig highlines when the terrain allows.
To learn more about the technical side of slackline rigging check out all our tech articles at SlackTech.