Wednesday, September 23, 2009
After Bremen I decided to see Berlin. I contacted a guy named Jordan Tybon about couchsurfing with him, but during the time I wanted to come he was heading south to Bodensee for a slackline festival July 11th and 12th. Slackline Festivals? Those exist?! I decided I had to go, so he said to come to Berlin an we would travel together. With mitfahrgelegenheit we got a ride down to Radolfzell, where Walk The Line 3 was happening, an event created by Marty Szwed and Anna Hergenröder. Through Jordan I met Jan Galek and Michal Korniewicz, two slackliners from Poland. The festival was great, such a mix of slackliners, at all stages of slacklining! They had longlines, highlines, trick lines, waterlines and many types of webbing. It was here I made some of my first connections to other slackliners and slackline companies as well. At this festival I tried my first longlines (not completing any of them!) and my first highline, an urban one set between an old water tower and the climbing gym, about 8 meters long. Being on a highline was something different, much more frightening then I ever expected. I was not afraid of falling, because with a harness and a leash I was safe, yet my body was shaking, my stomach dropped out of me and my heart was beating so hard against my chest. I stood up from the chongo, took a step and fell. I repeated this over and over and over and over. At best I walked halfway across. This was the most frustrating experience of my life! I took some painful leash falls, and my thighs were bruised up and down every color of the rainbow, and as you can see in the picture my arm took some pain as well.
After three or four days of slacklining nonstop I was looking like I had an abusive boyfriend. We all ended up staying at Marty's house, and him and Anna showed us immense hospitality, fed us, gave us beer :) and shared many laughs.
Jordan headed back to Berlin, and I decided to stay behind with Jan and Michal (Janek and Kornie.) Eventually Kornie left as well, and Janek and I continued to slackline. We also went to a town near Singen and tried a tree highline over water. I did not send it, fell a few times and was feeling so worn down from the last few days that I decided to leave it. Of course Janek and Bernhard (an excellent highliner from Switzerland) sent it both no problem. Janek even sent it free-solo. Very inspiring to watch. On one of the later days in Radolfzell, after a long day of being active, Janek and I decided to try the longlines in front of Marty's home. One was a 70 Meter and the other a 90. I got on the 70, Janek on the 90 and we both on-sighted them full man. It was a great moment, and it was a great way to end our time in Radolfzell. After not sending any longlines, this was such an accomplishment for me.
After the Walk the Line Festival ended, Janek had a job working at the Out Door Festival 2009. I tagged along, nothing better to do. The great thing about this festival was all the slackline companies! I was able to see Slackstar and their companies information, met the guys from Slackline Tools, Slack.fr, and saw the Gibbon company in action. Also met Andy Lewis briefly while eating lunch with Janek. Saw his backflips in person and all that jazz. I still was not a fan of the Gibbon lines, so thick! They are strange and terrible for static tricks! But I suppose if you want to slack in fat shoes and jump around like a monkey, Gibbon is great. I practiced jumps on the small indoor slackline set up at the Slackstar booth where Janek was working, and by the end of the festival had gotten quite better at getting air. Slackstar actually gave me a 15m line of tubular webbing and tree slings for free for practicing at their booth! Nice!
After this we headed to Chamonix, France, to spend two weeks in the mountains climbing. I had only begun climbing a month before, so for my first real rock experience to be in the Alps was amazing! We set up a night slackline in the town one night when we were there, between two old lamps, just for fun. Quite a few drunk people passing by came and tried or took pictures. I guess the lamps were not so well wired because every time Janek did a jump on the line one of the bulbs would go out on either side. Then, when he jumped again the light would come back on. One guy who was quite drunk said he used to slackline, and told Janek and I that as good as we were we should definitely join the circus! He seemed to think we had much potential to be crazy circus slackers. Hmmm...another person associating balance with circus performing. Dammit. Anyhow, we did not slackline again for our time in the mountains, and when we came down we proceeded to hitchhike back to Poland.
The next festival I attended was Urban Highline in Lublin, Poland. I went with Janek and the other best polish slackliner, Damian Czermak. There Damian and Janek set up first a tree highline about 99feet (30 meters) long using my tubular threaded webbing. They both sent it quite easily, with a huge crowd underneath all looking up and snapping photos of this newfangled sport: highlining! Being the only female, I felt a bit of extra pressure. I did not send the tree highline on my first few attempts, however the next day, once the crowd had dissipated and I was practically alone (with only a photographer up in the tree next to the pulley system,) I sent the line full man. This was a great feeling! The line was just a tree line, only about 26 feet high (8 meters) but it was my first real send of any line higher than a normal slackline. After I finished I climbed down and headed over to the real Urban highline: a beastly 197 ft (60 meter) line that was 12 stories high, strung between two office buildings in downtown Lublin. I was on the roof during the rigging of this line, and on one side the anchors looked quite secure, however on the other side they were secured by large pieces of wood propped against the outside of doorways lengthwise. Sketchy looking! However they held. I knew before trying this line that it was pretty much out of my range, yet I was excited to try such a highline. It was the same length as the world record highline! For two days I watched Janek and Damian struggle with this Urban Highline. The two best highliners I knew struggling on a line proved its difficulty. I only tried twice in the two days, mainly because the event was more aimed at the two Polish guys, not the random American chick travelling with them. I stood up from a chongo both times, and took a leash fall both times immediately after standing. Not a single step! But this line was like nothing I had ever experienced. You are twelve stories high, with a sea of windows on the white wall in front of you and the open blue sky above you. Strange kind of vertigo. I did not once look down at the street below while on the line. It was really amazing to see Damian and Janek walking on this line, despite the difficulty they seemed so steady. Unfortunately because the line was in the center of town the festivals organizers could only get the street shut down from traffic for a few hours each day. Because of this Janek and Damian had time limits on their attempts. I am almost positive if they had more time they would have sent this line. Janek came so close to the end on his last attempt, we were all pressed to the windows barely breathing, hardly saying a word as if that word would be carried out the window and somehow throw him off balance. When he fell I think we all fell with him in a way. It was still an amazing try. We then all had to be bombarded by news crews (mostly talking to Damian and Janek, though they somehow found me and thought I would be interesting to interview.) The funniest interview of all was the news station that interviewed us three as we all sat on the Urban Highline. It took about ten minutes, but was very uncomfortable and if one person moved at all it shook the line and almost caused another person to fall off. The last question they asked threw us all off guard a bit, "what do you love?" I had never been asked this so abruptly, so I said something cliche along the lines of "I love living, and testing myself."
After two days of this tree highline and Urban line, we went to the "beach" and set up a couple of waterlines on a square dock. There was also a Gibbon waterline (nice gaybbon water jumping!) but we all stayed away from it. I had not been on a water line in some time, and my first few attempts were quite shit. I ended up in the water, which actually was not too cold and quite refreshing. After a couple tried I was walking alright. The big strong Polish Policja were there to keep the normal beachgoers from entering the docks, so they all crowded behind the cops and took pictures while making the usual spectator noises. So, this wrapped up the festival, the first of it's kind in Lublin. I was really grateful to have been a part of it, and was so thankful to the organizers for treating me as one of the VIP crew.
The next festival was sometime later, in Chemnitz, Germany, in the second weekend of August. Janek and his girlfriend hitchhiked from Poland, and I came with Kornie. It was a nice festival, easygoing and free entry. The location was nice as well, in a tree-laden area of a park on the edge of the town. There was a campsite you could pay to camp at but Kornie and I just ended up throwing out tent in the woods behind some bushes and no one was the wiser :) There were longlines, tricklines, and of course a gibbon. On the first day I decided to try a 295 ft (90 meter) longline, and I on-sighted it full man! Was really pleased, especially since there was a bunch of people playing badminton right next to the line as I was walking, and the sun was beating down. During this festival I also took part in a trick jam-session competition, hoping to win a tent. There was no female section, but I decided to try anyway. I was number 13, and was eliminated after 6 other people. At least I stayed in halfway! Janek of course won the competition, getting a nice chunk of webbing for it. Later I tried a 345ft line (105 meter) and almost on-sighted it! I fell 1 meter before the end! So frustrating! However the next day I sent the line one way, but ran out of time to finish it full man. At this festival the term "full-tits" was born, a gender-correct term for females who send lines both ways. The festival went quite well, I was feeling pretty lazy after spending a full month or so just slacklining non-stop, so there were quite a few times spent lazing around not doing anything. There was also a highest jump contest (did not take part, Janek of course won that as well.) In the end we hitchhiked our tired asses back to Wroclaw.
I probably should not count this as a Festival, but I will mention the Drunkline Festival in Wroclaw thrown by Kornie. Nice nighttime slacklining with Polish beer and Polish people in a park. Good times until the alcohol level surpasses your balancing skills. Actually only 4 people sent the longline we had set up at this festival, it was about 148 feet (45 meters.)