Otherwise known as “tricklining” or “longlining”, it is said that slacklining originated in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest in the 1980’s when rock climbers began walking across two-inch nylon webbing to traverse difficult terrain. On a sunny September afternoon in Loring Park, three intrepid MCTC students got a chance to test their abilities on a tree-mounted slackline courtesy of enthusiast Jack Juhola.

“The better you get at it, the more tricks you can do,” Juhola said.

The Montana resident has over forty years of backpacking experience, and picked up the skill “somewhere along the way”.

In between classes, Taylor Fitzgerald summoned her friends Justin Frank and Joe Carlson to the park where she’d come across Juhola practicing. With the veteran’s encouragement, the trio joined in, attempting to walk the entire line without losing their footing.

“Take a deep breath… think yoga… stare at the “Y” where the webbing hooks to the tree, and keep your arms up,” Juhola said.

First-timer Carlson, who managed a flip on one of his dismounts, seemed to catch on quickly. The 19 year-old business major attributed his sense of balance to his experiences downhill longboarding in Vancouver, B.C., and Southern California.

Juhola thinks it’s a good sport for students who have an adventurous streak, but are on a tight budget.

“A slackline kit costs about eighty dollars from a place like REI, while buying the stuff piece by piece would set you back about fifty bucks”, Juhola said.

The nominal startup costs of the activity brought about talks of a club amongst the students, even in light of Minnesota’s temperamental climate.

“If there was a club, we could do it inside during the winter,” Fitzgerald said.

Juhola, a pilot for Delta Airlines, plans on bringing his slackline with him to another park at his next stop in Amsterdam.

“It’s a kick in the head”, Juhola said. “It’s fun. Attracts people, you know?”

Photo by Erik Stewart