By Chris Freud (courtesy Vail Daily)
Alex Mason, age 16, jumped and flipped his way in impressive fashion last Sunday to capture the Slackline World Championship title on the final day of the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail.
“It’s super-sick,” Mason said. “I love this place. It’s super beautiful.”
For the uninitiated, the slacklining at this competition is based around performing assorted tricks on a 2-inch-wide band of webbing. What the finalists were able to do on Sunday really defied gravity and common sense.
So how does one do a flip and actually land on a 2-inch strip?
“Good question,” said Italy’s Lukas Huber, who finished third. “It’s training, all about training … Falling down makes someone stronger.”
Mason went to a party at a gym in the Bay Area and first tried slacklining. It took him, he said, about three weeks just to be able to walk on it.
“In most sports, as in slacklining, it’s all muscle memory,” Mason said. “You just focus super-hard. You don’t let yourself get scared.”
It may be routine to the competitors, but it wowed the crowd in Vail.
Mason and Germany’s Benjamin Schmid had already advanced to the finals, while Huber, Boulder’s Justin Wagers and Japan’s Toru Osugi had a “trick-off” for the final two spots.
Huber advanced to face Mason in the semifinals, while Wagers ended up taking on Schmid. The Wagers-Schmid match didn’t get very far because the former took a nasty spill.
Wagers had a cut under his jaw and was holding the left side of his mouth. He understandably withdrew.
In the second semi-final, Mason and Huber played a game of “anything you can do, I can do better.” They took turns trading 540s and 360s and freefalls. Likely the deciding factor in Mason’s favor was a backflip in the waning seconds.
Mason bested Schmid in the finale, but both won the adoration of the crowd. “It was very hard,” Schmid said. “The crowd was so big and Alex is so good. He can do everything on a slackline. It was hard, but it was fun.”
—Chris Freud is the Sports Editor at the Vail Daily.