What happens when the Godfather of Slacklining, his protegé, and 400 pounds of slacklining gear are brought together to dream up the future of their sport in the remote Hawaiian rainforest?
Not too different than Chris Sharma bringing futuristic lines to the sport of rock climbing, slacklining may be experiencing a similar renaissance with the latest project—the Red Bull Slackladder—by “Sketchy” Andy Lewis and Alex Mason.
Most people set up just one or two lines, but the Slackladder is a full course—a next-level terrain that mixes creative thinking, world-class tricklining, and drool-worthy cinematic filmmaking as it ascends Onomea Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii.
A Berkeley native and only 19 years old, Alex explains:
We kind of took slacklining out of its natural habitat and we put it over rocks and water in all sorts of different ways and all sorts of different heights … Learning how to slackline over any new terrain is probably where I’m going to take the sport.
By the numbers
The Slackladder is composed of 8 lines totaling 1,000 feet and 1 mile of webbing, ropes, and cables. 400 pounds of gear contribute to the Slackladder, which rises 120ft above the waterfalls and took 200 hours to prepare.
What’s up with Sketchy Andy?
Most climbers know Sketchy Andy from his spot in Reel Rock 6. He gained fame for his daring free solos, putting even his closest friends on edge for his safety. We asked a couple questions about life since then.
Could you give a brief update on how your career has evolved since Reel Rock?
I’ve become kind of an icon of the sport, more or less. I think I’ve become the most famous slackliner on the planet because I’m not afraid to take things to the next level. I like being hired for rigging and creative jobs, and also performing stunts, so I’d say that’s evolution!
Having been called the Godfather of the Slackline, does this place a level of responsibility and/or pressure on you to perform? What’s it like holding such a title?
It’s an honor! Being given the gift of being called the Godfather of Slackline is kind of a victory dance for me. I’ve put in so much time and effort, so I’m grateful that I got to phase out of the competitive side of the sport and focus more on the community aspect of the sport and pushing the boundaries.
Inside the psyche of Alex Mason
We also got the chance to learn a bit more about Alex Mason—one of the premier American competitive slackliners in a field largely dominated by Europeans. His friends sometimes call him The Machine and he’s known for his consistent ability to land difficult tricks.
- Years slacklining: 8
- Most proud line: Red Bull Slackladder
- Other hobbies: rock climbing, skiiing
- Favorite band/musician: Biggie Smalls
- Idol or mentor: Sketchy Andy
- Estimated # of lifetime hours spent practicing on the line: 6,000
How would you describe the headspace when walking an untethered highline?
Focused, 100%. A flow state.
How did you dream up this wild course and what’s most alluring about it for you?
I worked with Red Bull and the team to think up something different and something that would progress the sport. The landscape was the most alluring part. I wanted to take slacklining somewhere different.
The Slackladder feels futuristic, as the climbers would say. Is this the direction slacklining is heading? That is, no longer the tallest or longest, but instead the most creative, obscure lines?
I’d say that this is the direction slacklining could head, but slacklining can go in so many different directions. I don’t want to pick one (if you will). It’s just a new thing that you can do with slacklines and I’m excited to see where I’ll take it next.
I ended up as a professional slackliner because …
My sister, when I was really young, got better at rock climbing than I was …
And, I love it. It’s fun!
If I weren’t a professional slackliner, I’d be …
Really bored all the time … And probably just focusing on school.
Can you explain the role of fear when walking on a no-fall line?
It’s completely a mental game when you’re walking on a no-fall line—you just have to focus and know you can do it. It’s all mental and the Red Bull Slackladder had a bunch of no-fall lines … fear can’t play a role.
Is it higher lines, epic landscapes, longer lines, or something else that inspires your challenges?
Bigger tricks, meeting new people, and having as much fun as possible every day.
What advice would you give to new slackliners? What advice would you give to other professional slackliners?
To both groups: have fun and keep at it. Slacklining only gets harder, but that’s the fun part, I suppose.
Can you give any hints about what we can look forward to next?
Bigger tricks! Cooler projects, more traveling. I’m working on a couple really hard tricks right now that I think could change the sport a lot at the moment.
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