Slacklining goes Mainstream as Competition at Teva Games

GearJunkie’s Sean McCoy reported from Vail, Colo., this past weekend at the 11th annual Teva Mountain Games.

Immense crowds of screaming spectators this past weekend at the Teva Mountain Games sealed the deal for me. The “sport” of slacklining, an activity born as a training technique for rock climbers looking to improve balance, is about to go viral.

Immense crowds and tricks performed on a thin line

At the Teva Games, thousands of people watched in awe as male and female “trick-liners” balanced, bounced, and flipped acrobatically on lines of webbing strung taut between anchor points.

After three days of events in a competition at the Teva Games dubbed the Gibbon Games (after sponsor Gibbon Slacklines), it was a relative newcomer to the sport, 14-year-old Alex “The Machine” Mason, who took first place and a $1,250 purse. Mason’s win underscores the sport’s new appeal to the youth crowd. With just a year and a half experience, Mason topped the best adults in the world with his intensely consistent style.

Age 14, Alex ‘The Machine’ Mason takes home the win

Children also dominated the demonstration area. Hundreds of kids stood in line and walked demo slacklines set up by Gibbon to get a taste of the sport. Kids as young as five or six appeared to take to the line quickly.

Slacklining made its big screen debut during this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, where Gibbon athlete Andy Lewis performed an array of acrobatic tricks onstage with Madonna under flashing lights and to crashing music. . . all while wearing a sort of strange male dress (video here). Yes, untold millions of people saw the sport for the first time on television or in follow-up stories like this one on gossip site TMZ called SUPER BOWL TIGHTROPE GUY: Don’t Worry, My Nads Are Fine!”

For better or worse, Lewis’ antics sparked huge new interest. At the Teva Games, Lewis finished out of the money but impressed crowds with his huge amplitude. He said since the first trick-line competition he attended in 2008 the sport has grown tremendously. “There has become a huge database of tricks online,” Lewis said.

Andy Lewis gained unlikely fame slacklining at the 2012 Super Bowl

We watched Lewis and the other slackers from the sidelines. The tricks were impressive and fun, including flips landed on the line and double back-flip dismounts. With a made-for-television appeal, trick-line competitions will almost certainly gain a foothold in the world of alternative sports in the coming years.

—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor based in Denver. He reported from Vail and ran the half-marathon at the Teva Games this year.

Demo lines at the Teva Games let everyone sample the burgeoning sport of slacklining

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.