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Losing fears and finding family through highlining

I tried a slackline in India for the first time in early 2015 at a slackline workshop in Pune by Slacklife Inc. At the time I was learning how to skateboard too and I was getting hooked onto any activity which involved balance and presence of mind.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining | Highlining in India | 4Play.in
Samar Farooqui at The Slacklife Inc workshop in Pune 2015. Photo: Navin Torres

By the end of the year I got the basics down and was keen to try highlining (slacklining between cliffs with a safety harness). Highlining in India was already growing at that point and I got the first ‘high’ in Badami and Lonavala. They gave me an insight into mental factors involved in high lining.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining - Highlining in India | 4Play.in
Navin Torres at Dukes Nose, Lonavala. Photo: Aliasger Dhariwala

The same year, I also learned about a slackline/highline festival in far-off Poland called “The Urban Highline Festival” from Samar Farooqui. It’s a celebration of slack lining and is a highline playground in the middle of a 700 year old historic town- Lublin!

In 2018, I quit to my job in Pune and decided to travel through Europe, eventually making my way to Poland through Spain, France and Netherlands.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining - Highlining in India | 4Play.in

Slacklining is a great way to make friends while travelling, Jonas (left), Sebastian (right) and I drove down to Lublin from Amsterdam on a 2 day journey in Jonas’s live-in van, making one stop in Germany along the way.

All of the participants camped out in tents for the 5 day event in a city park next to the 12th Century Lublin Royal Castle. Although there was a language barrier, the locals erased it through their warm hospitality. Their culture made us feel at home.

The festival brought together interesting people like Sebastian Seagraves, the best slackline “performer” I have ever met. He gave me a new perspective on slacklining as a “performance”, and not just a sport. Slacklining is quite a new sport in the larger scheme of things and like most participants, the group of rigging experts and slackline product manufacturers present there were constantly engaged in bringing new ideas and innovations to make the sport safer, more interesting and accessible.

Amongst amazing high liners were, past and present highline world record holders, Germany’s Friedi Kühne (Free solo highline record: 110 metres {walking a highline without any safety equipment} | Longest highline walked world record: 1900 metres) and France’s Pablo Signoret (Longest blindfold walk on a highline record: 423 metres | Former Longest highline world record holder: 1800 metres).

Surprisingly, turns out they are human just like the rest of us.

Being surrounded by some of the best athletes in Europe served as inspiration as I struggled to overcome my fear of walking a highline as about a hundred tourists stared into the sky to watch me do it. As I started to make progress on the third day of the festival, I broke a finger while trying to get hold of the line as I took a fall only after a couple of steps.

Highlining, within the community is considered to be a very safe activity, if all safety measures and practices are observed. If there’s one thing I could suggest anyone learning to walk the line then, first learn to take a fall. It’s really simple but initially counter intuitive because the safest way to take a “leash-fall” is head first, almost like planning a dive into the concrete below. It’s much easier than I’m making it sound. I promise.

Join me on a walk through the Urban Highline festival in beautiful Lublin, Poland:

Losing fears and finding family through highlining | Highlining in India | 4Play.in

The Urban Highline festival is one of the biggest and oldest slackline festivals in the world, completing 10 years in 2018.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining | Highlining in India | 4Play.in

Slackline veterans and beginners from over 25 countries across the globe, came together to be a part of the festival.

The Urban Highline Festival is primarily sponsored by the local government and is a part of the popular annual carnival that takes place in Lublin: Carnaval Sztukmistrzów. You would often have hundreds of people walking under the line watching you fight your fear.

The festival also invites some special guests every year from world record holders and sponsored athletes to rigging experts and explorers one could derive inspiration from.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining | Highlining in India | 4Play.in

There were about 12 highlines rigged in the town centre, above all of the cafeteries and strolling tourists.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining | Highlining in India | 4Play.in

One of the slacklines in the town centre had a net underneath, which meant you could do a free-solo (walking on a highline without a safety harness) without the stress that comes with falling-to-your-death.

3 of the highest highlines were rigged above a road with moving traffic between two skyscrapers in middle of the city. The rest of the highlines were spread across the town using hundred year old towers and churches for anchors.

Losing fears and finding family through highlining | Highlining in India | 4Play.in

In order to get to most of the highlines, you had to walk through amazing narrow corridors of these century old buildings, an instant blast from the past. Many of these buildings are not open to the public, making the experience for highliners at the festival even more exclusive.

Some days were really hot and some saw rain, but that didn’t deter audiences from coming out to enjoy the streets during the carnival.

This festival has inspired me to work towards facilitating a similar gathering for slacklining in India by bringing together like-minded people to try it for the first time or to hone their skill on a highline.

Now that three years have passed, I still feel I am a novice at the sport but am working on getting over my fears and mental blocks on a highline.

All of my travels in the past to Spain, Poland, Germany, Netherlands and Australia have revolved around slacklining. It’s a great excuse to be in the outdoors and get to know other afficionados (and myself) better. You can easily spend months in Europe going for weekly slackline gatherings and summer festivals.

If you are interested in learning slacklining in India, you could find out more about the groups here and if you are travelling anywhere in the world, you can explore this list of 1,000+ groups across the globe.

Author: Navin Devnani Torres

He is a freelance photographer and an aspiring documentary filmmaker. He was raised in India and is currently based out of Sydney, Australia. Navin is an action sports enthusiast and spends most of his time slacklining or skating with friends. He is a strong believer that dogs are the solution to all of man’s problems. You can check out more of his work at www.navintorres.com

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Author: 4Play

4Play.in is India’s first adventure sports channel which curates stories from the outdoor extreme and adventure sports. An outcome of roughing it up in the outdoors, living on the cutting edge of what may be termed as extreme, and basking in the experiences that came along.

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Losing fears and finding family through highlining

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