Interview with Terry Acomb

If there were such a thing as a highline guru, then Terry would be it. Terry is the type of dude that will experiment with highlining gear all day, then help set slackline anchors for a friend at night–this guy loves slacklining. Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio and then moving to Colorado, Terry has taken on many hobbies throughout his life. Canyoneering, rock climbing and hiking are just a few activities at which Terry has excelled. Always searching for that next adventure, Terry discovered slacklining. From that point on he has helped to elevate the sport to new levels of extreme fun.

Terry, a geologist who resides in Fruita, Colorado has pushed the bar of highlining to new levels. He has been on the forefront of developing super quick but very safe highlines.He has also been a major force in developing quality new highline areas in the Southern Utah desert.
If you know Terry then you are probably familiar with the slackline oasis in his own backyard, where he has two highlines, longlines and slacklines all over. You could even call it a slackline hostel, where some of the best slackers in the world have stayed and practiced at his place before moving on to highline in Moab. This slackline oasis is also where he sets up his experimental highlines to test them before setting them up for real over the cliffs of Moab. When it comes to rigging Terry could talk for hours and is only happy to share this information with people who are serious about having an extreme but very safe time!

How long have you been slacklining?

Oh, about 6 or 7 years.

Some of Terrys long training lines

Do you have any slackline accomplishments that you would like to put on record?

No I’m just trying to gradually get better, I’m obviously drawn to the highline end of it. I’m a little older than most in this sport, I will be 44 years old in a few days, so I’m not to much into the tricks. I’m into trying to walk long highlines and I am up to a hundred and thirty feet which is pretty good but I feel that I could do better.

What usually runs through in your head while you are highlining?

To try and hold it together, to stay in control so if I fall I can catch the line. It’s
getting to the point where on the longer highlines vision and focus are really important, having eyesight good enough to see across to the other side – to really see the line.

Out of all the highlines that you have walked does highlining get any easier?

I won’t say it gets any easier on the longer highlines but sometimes on my backyard 50 foot highline, there are days when I just feel totally dialed in and relaxed. Maybe it gets

Back yard 50ft highline

a little easier but it’s kind of like doing pull ups, they really don’t get easier no matter how much you practice, so even though you can do more of them they are still hard. I can do longer highlines but even the shorter ones grab your attention. A lot of highliners will tell you that there is really no such thing as an easy highline. They do get more fun as you get better, that might be the best answer.

What is the longest highline that you have walked?

130ft but 150ft is going to fall very soon…

What is your motivation to slackline?

My motivation to slackline is to highline. I slackline for the purpose of being a better highliner, that’s kind of my endgame for now. As far as my motivation to highline I’ve been a rock climber for 25 years and man, what a great compliment/supplement to rock climbing. It’s exciting and I always say that it has the excitement of an extreme sport without the danger of an extreme sport.

If you had to choose a favorite piece of equipment that’s in your bag right now what would it be?

The Vectran webbing seems to be the current state of the art – and aeon too.  Vectran has enabled myself and others to walk longer highlines and longer low lines because you don’t have that secondary reverb that you have with other webbing. It’s a case where just like in other sports technological advances and new materials play a major role in pushing the standards, “It makes a fun sport even more fun” – I am quoting Andy Lewis there.  You just saw yourself how easy that 150 foot vectran line walked.

Have you ever broken a slackline?

I’ve broken a lowline in the yard while we were re-tightening it, but that line had been up for 3 years in the weather and had seen a lot of traffic – it was kind of an experiment. I have not broken any line when there were any consequences.

Do you wear a leash when you are highlining?

Absolutely! I wear a double leash. It follows the rule of redundancy. It just gives you less things to think about when you are on the line. There is enough to think about already so anything that will ease the psychological burden of highlining – that’s good.

Does weather have an impact when your highlining?

Terry experimenting with different materials for highlining in his yard

Yes it does and i definitely cherry pick the good days. I don’t like to highline when its windy because then you can’t highline at your best.

Do you ever mentally prepare yourself before walking a highline?

It’s nice to get some warm up walks when possible but no I don’t do any deep mental preparation. I just basically rig it and go. I’m not a guy who’s regularly getting the on-sight, even on a short highline. I always seem to fall once or twice before I get into the groove.

Do you protect your lines?

I definitely like those velcro line sleeves and I think that has been a very good thing for highline safety they are starting to catch on. I am referring to those suburban sidewinder sleeves, they are made for hydraulic hoses and other industrial uses.  They are real nice for taping on a highline when it’s going over the lip of the cliff. Any way you can protect your highline is a good thing.  I am all for tree protection not only because it protects the tree but perhaps more importantly it protects your line from the serrated tree bark.

How did you first get introduced to slacklining?

Actually some guy who I don’t know told me about it. I met him at the trailhead for the
Buckskin Gulch hike and he was a guy similar to me, he was into hiking, canyoneering and rock climbing, and he says “you know I just took up something recently called slacklining and I really like it”.  He told me all about it but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I actually looked into it. Then I heard about a highline gathering over in Moab at Gemini Bridges so I went and saw people walking highlines. The moment I saw people walking a highline over a canyon in Moab I’m like “That’s the freakin’ coolest thing I have ever seen”. I thought to myself “I don’t care what it takes I’m gonna learn how to do that”. As a rock climber you can see how I was drawn to it and I was right, Highlining is a great sport for me I just can’t say enough good things about it.

So what would you say to someone that is fearful of highlining?

Highlining is not as hard as people think. At first it seems like a rather improbable thing. To make a good analogy, look at snowboarding. When people first strap themselves onto a snowboard and try to ride it down a ski slope it’s a very hard and

Once you've walked Terrys highline you get to sign the support beam

scary thing, but three or four days later they are connecting S turns. Not that you can pick up highlining quite that fast but I really don’t think it is that hard for the average fit person, particularly shorter highlines, you just have to want it and practice. As far as learning to highline I would say the best thing to do is set up a lowline that is high enough to practice endless line catches.  Being confident in line catches will make those first highline steps less intimidating and safer.  I am teaching a new slackliner to highline right now, and part of this process is to make sure she has hundreds of practice line catches under her belt before she gets on a highline.

Have you ever taken a leash fall?

Not an unintentional leash fall, I never have. But it could be said that if you always catch the line and you’ve never taken an unintentional leash fall than you’re not trying hard enough.  You know everybody does every sport with there own level of risk. Ultimately for that very reason you could call me a pretty conservative highliner.  Just like there are rock climbers that think nothing of running it out fifteen feet, while other rock climbers sew it up every 5 feet.  You can choose your own level of risk.   When your 44 years old and you’ve got a lot of sports under your belt you realize the value of staying uninjured. I have a hard enough time keeping up with all these younger kids anyway, you know the Andys’, and the Mikes’ and the Jeremy’s of the world, all these 23 year olds that are passing me by. Which is great of course these guys are so inspiring it makes me push myself harder both in slacklining and in fitness in general its great to be surrounded by the young talented athletes in this community it’s one of the great things I get back.  And keeping yourself from getting injured it’s a good thing it goes a long way.

What foot wear do you use?

Terry taking the first steps ever made over the void that would later become known as "The Fruit Bowl"

I’ve always worn shoes, but interestingly enough I have stumbled on something lately that I really like. These Asics running shoes, these are my street shoes that I wear for jogging and walking around and they’re size 11. For slacklining shoes I wear the exact same shoes but they are a size 9, two sizes smaller. I take out the factory insole so that I can feel the line even better.

In three words or less describe highlining?

That’s pretty easy. Fun, challenging and safe!

What are some goals that you have for yourself?

My next goal would be to break the 150 ft mark for a highline but also to become much more solid on the 100 footers.

Where do you think slacklining will be in the next five years?

Well I think standards are going up rapidly.  Hopefully slacklining will not going to be subject to any more regulations. Particularly for slacklines in city parks.  Hopefully as people get more educated then these park managers or bureaucracies will realize that there is nothing particularly dangerous about setting up a slackline in a park.  Slacklining is what parks are for.

So when did your place turn into some what of a slackline hostel?

When Scotty, yourself and some of the Boulder guys started going over to Moab on a regular basis, my place made a nice stopover to slack or crash.  People loved the lines and that inspired me to set up even more lines.  And it is great fun for me to have these lines to train and push myself on.  My 50 ft highline is very user friendly and has been the first highline for a lot of people, including some guys that are now some of the best in the world like Jeremy Louis and Mike Payton.  And slackliners are a great group of people to have around – just like rock climbers.  And we should all help out our fellow travelers as we are all travelers ourselves.

Highlining by camp fire

Highline by campfire

Thank you Terry for sharing this story and valuable info on highlining. Terry has had an enormous effect on the slackline community, while helping take the sport of highlining to new levels of safety, responsibility and fun. A lot of you in the slackline community have had the privilege to walk his lines and sit around his campfire and talk about the next epic highline project. For those of you who have not had that opportunity, it will come with time. Keep up the slacklining!

Interview with Mickey Wilson

Mickey Wilson, AKA,”Mickey” grew up right here in Colorado, where he now attends the Colorado School of Mines. He has been slacklining for two years now and has come a long way, with a style all his own. It  started with just taking the edge off by slacklining in between classes, into starting a
slackline club at the college. With over 100 students in the mix, this slackline club is going places, and becoming the popular thing to do at the college.

How did you first get introduced to slacklining?

My buddies at school- we set up slacklines when we didn’t have class. It was just a really cool way to hang out in the park, close to class, close to the dorms and really it was just a social thing, hanging out.

Did you start the CSM slacklining club?

I did.

When was that?

That would be last semester, so it would have been around September of 2010 that is when we had our first meetings. At Celebration of Mines we had a bunch of students come out and at our first slackline meeting we had 60 or so students sign up.

What were your motivations for creating this club?

Introducing people to slacklining that would not otherwise have been introduced to it.

How many people are in the CSM slacklining club?

Currently our most official means of calculating that is our email list and we have 105 people on the email list. Some of those aren’t students like there’s our faculty adviser Teresa (Mama T) who’s on the list and you’re on the list and you’re not a student, but we have around 100 or so people on the email list and we have regular turnouts of about 30 to 40 students at a meeting.

What’s the most challenging trick you have landed on the line?

A 360 to a backflip.

How would you describe slacklining in three words or less?

Focused, determination, and fun.

How do you prepare yourself mentally before you get on a slackline?

There’s no preparation, even for highlines. I mean I don’t think about it at all, I do it so much it’s a part of what I do now. If I have a hour between classes I’m slacklining.

What’s the worst injury you have had while on the line?

A concussion or a mild concussion. I wasn’t totally out but I was trying to do a butt bounce off a really high line. I lost it and I hit my head and I was definitely seeing stars and a little concussed.

What would you say to someone that is fearful of slacklining?

When you are starting out, you’re not going to get hurt, you’re going to be challenged but you’re not going to get hurt.

If you had to choose a favorite piece of equipment that’s in your bag right now what would it be?

My rappel rings because I like flat lines

How would you describe slacklining in three words or less?

Focused, determination, and fun.

How can slacklining benefit a college student?

That’s easy, it promotes sanity and focus, but most of all promotes sanity. I was taking 24 credits last semester and I was working 8 hours a week, I mean I don’t know how I found the time, but if I didn’t find the time to go slacklining I think I would have just gone freakin insane last semester….thats how it can benefit a college student.

What kind of things do you have in store for the CSM slacklining club?

Well we are going to start walking longliner lines because we finally got some pulleys. We are getting our equipment together because we wanna do a couple more highlines. We only got to do one last semester and that was kind of a bummer. I wanna have a competition, I  wanna have a slacklining event, maybe not a competition but at least an event that the club puts on. We are going to have food, and get even more students that maybe missed us the first time around to get interested in slacklining.

Interview with Mike Payton

“Slacklining is not a crime”

Mike Payton, AKA, “Alpha Mike” was raised in Colorado and attended University of Colorado.  He has been slacklining for 4 years and began working for Gibbons in 2009.  He’s placed first in five comps and has walked an 800’ long line and a 200’ long high line.  When he’s not slacking, he enjoys climbing and has traveled to Germany, France and Switzerland.

How did you first get introduced to slacklining?

I first learned slacklining from Scott Rodgers, my first day of college at CU Boulder.

How would you describe the personal responsibilities a slacker must take to ensure a successful experience while on the slackline?

There is a lot of slackline etiquette that you just pick up while traveling around.  Like protecting the trees, make sure your line is not endangering anyone, make sure you’re not going to clothesline any bikers.  Just make sure it’s in a good spot, never over any paths and where you’re not going to harm anybody.  So, just look around and have some common sense and make sure that your line is not going to interfere with any activities going on or damage anything.

What do you use for tree protection?

I use everything for tree protection.  I use the clothes off my back, I use carpet, I use anything that’s soft and cushy to protect the trees.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever tied a line off on?

Light posts, I’ve broken lights that have come down.  I’ve broken steel structures; I’ve snapped lines on I-Beams.

If you had to choose a favorite piece of equipment that’s in your bag right now, what would it be?

That would be my Petzl I’D.

What is going on in your head while highlining?

Hopefully nothing.  No, I’m just trying to feel every little twitch, every little fiber and muscle in my body and I’m trying to make it all in tune.  If I feel something  that’s twinging a little too much or if there’s too much stress here and there, I try and zone in on the area and relieve it down to nothing so that all I’m feeling is the perfect harmony of my body working and balancing.

Do you wear a leash while highlining?

Most of the time.

When are the times you don’t?

I’ve done a handful of free solos before but that’s not really something I want to get into.

How would you describe slacklining in three words or less?

Addicting, fun, radical.

Have you ever had an experience that scared you while on a line?

Yes, when Andy rigs ‘em.  No but in highlines sometimes we’re using natural protection just like slinging rocks so we’re not drilling any bolts just feeling some rocks move and the earth shifting around under your anchors and it’s a little unnerving.  That’s the stuff that’s the scariest.

Is that something that’s happened to you before, the rocks moving?

No rocks have really affected my line, it’s more creaking of rocks that’s scary.

What is the most challenging trick that you’ve landed on the line to date?

Front flip to front flip combo.

Where do you think slacklining will be in the next five years?

Slacklining could be in the X-Games or Olympics in the next five years for all I know.  I hope it is because it’s something that I love to do or it could still be an underground sport in the next five years.  I guess only time will tell.

In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of slacklining?

Everything.  Every single thing you ever do in your life, slacklining will help.  Slacklining gives you better meditation, better balance, focus, strength, everything.  Everything you need to live, it gives you.

What will your next slackline adventure be?

Emelio, one of our Gibbon people was thinking about buying a 12,000-15,000’ piece of Vectran and I want to walk it.  He’s gonna call up Guinness and try and make an event out of it.  If a fat cat can be in the Guinness World Records, then why can’t the world’s longest slackline be in there?  I hope it goes.

When do you think this is going to take place?

A week or a month or a year, I don’t know.  Sometime in there.


One response

26 01 2011

Enjoyed the interview. Nice to hear from one of the best.

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