Slackers on a line

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Students slacklining at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Spring 2014

Klara Debie/For — On one of the first sunny days of spring, I saw some people balancing themselves on a tightrope – or that’s what I thought they were doing. They had put a rope between two trees on the quad and were walking across it, running sometimes, jumping on, doing tricks and often falling off it.

They were slacklining.

As with anything out of the ordinary, I was gripped the moment I saw it. How were they able to find their balance on such a thin, unstable surface? How did they even get on it? After a few days of staring at this group from a distance, I gathered the courage to ask if I could give it a shot. That’s when I learned that there was much more to slacklining than just acrobatics.

At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, slacklining is an excuse to hang out with friends, to relax, to meet new people, to get fresh air — to do everything and nothing at the same time.

Anyone can walk up to the slackliners and ask if they can join in. They’ll help you get on the line, make sure you don’t get hurt, give you pointers and cheer for you when you finally take your first step.

I had a blast making this video, playing around with the camera, putting it on and below the line and failing to get any decent footage as I tried to film and slackline at the same time. Yet the best part was definitely getting to know the slackliners. They are the most generous and welcoming people I have met on campus, and they made me feel at home right away.

Stop by one of these days. I promise they’ll greet you with a friendly face.

This project is the culmination of University of Illinois students’ work during spring 2014 as part of the multimedia reporting course taught by Professor Charles “Stretch” Ledford. The students were instructed to select a topic of interest and use audio and video to share that story. The resulting multimedia projects give an in-depth look at small segments with the Champaign-Urbana community. 

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