In the 70s and 80s, the forests of Yosemite were filled with bored rock climbers who, in between climbs, were seen balancing on nylon webbing strung between two trees or rock outcroppings. This activity eventually became so loved that it evolved into a sport in itself. It demands unflinching mental concentration, strength, and endurance, challenging even the fittest of athletes because it tests the real stability of the joints and muscles. It is often considered a sort of meditative activity. Today, it has followers across the globe and Slackline WorldCups take place every year, challenging the limits of the sport.

As slacklining evolves, the lines are being made more dynamic and have branched out into different types. Longlines, which is the most unsteady line and requires immense amount of endurance and core strength. Highlines, strung between two cliffs or buildings, needs a lot of mental strength to maintain balance while keeping the vertigo at bay. Shorter and tighter lines are also used for Yoga, and highly elastic and bouncy lines are used for tricklining, often involving jumps and flips.

Only recently has the sport picked up its pace in India, and Mumbai based 25 year old Samar Farooqui is at the forefront of this wave of ‘slacktivism’. A full-time slackliner, he is the founder of Slacklife Inc, a company that promotes slacklining in India, bringing together a community and spreading the love for the sport.

Samar showing off at Marine Drive, Mumbai. (Image courtesy: Samar Farooqui)

You’ve probably said these things a million times, but for our readers who are still new to the sport, can you please introduce us to slacklining and it’s philosophy?

Slacklining is all about balance. To some it is a sport, to some it is an art, to some it is meditation and to some it is a workout.  In slacklining we learn and practice how to balance our body over 1 or 2 inches of webbing (flat rope) with the use of the best tools given to mankind i.e. Mind and Body. As you can imagine it has its own health and meditative benefits at the same time it is brilliant fun.

And how did you first get on the line?
I got introduced to it by my friend and ex-boss. First time I got on, I barely managed balancing for a second. Before I could think to myself, I wanted to have another go. The simplicity of it appealed to me. On my second try, I had done better than my first. Which made me believe that it  was actually possible to learn this with a little persistence. So I went and plugged my ear phones in and just kept going at it. About 4 hours later (without realizing where the time had gone) I was able to walk the line completely.

There’s a Slackline WorldCup that happens every year, so this is a big sport. Why is it still so unheard of here?
Well, that is because it is a brand new sport. The competitive form of slacklining only emerged around 2008 with the first international competitions.

What’s the slacklining scene in India like, as compared to abroad?
India is still in its nascent stage when it comes to slacklining and all adventure sports. But we are growing at a phenomenal pace. 3 years ago when I had come back to India from NZ to be a professional slackliner in India the community would have been about 150 – 200 people (judging from facebook figures). Now we are at over 4000 people and still growing. There are massive communities in Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and many other cities.

What are we missing?
Slacklining has been featured on several TV shows.

I was on India’s Got Talent last year and this year showcasing the sport. Celebrities like Farhan Akhtar, Meiyang Chang, Raghu Ram and a few others have slacklined with me. Slacklining is a crowd puller. It doesn’t fail to gather an audience. Mainly I conduct slackline sessions at festivals and events which give the sport the much needed exposure, and it is also how I earn a living. Apart from that I use slacklining as team building activity for corporates and school children to teach them many values that can be learned via this sport.

What do you think it needs to make it big in this country?
More exposure, a few people experiencing the sport and reaping its benefits.
Support form local park and government authorities (as to not get hassled).

I believe you’re constantly on the move, putting together a community. Can you tell us about Slacklife Inc. and how you’re getting the slacktivism going?
Well, so my job with Slacklife Inc. is to travel and spread slacklining wherever I can. Slacklife Inc. conducts slacklining workshops / engagement programs / corporate trainings. Our clients vary from apparel and outdoor equipment stores who want us to conduct a workshop for their customers to event management companies and festivals who want us to run an area dedicated especially for slacklining. This gives them and their sponsors a lot of interaction opportunities with the visitors. Slacklife Inc. also specializes in team building excursions for corporates. Apart from that I am also often hired to perform, sometimes for TV shows and sometimes for festivals.
Everything that Slacklife Inc. does has one thing in common: new people are getting exposure to the sport.

Are there more full-time athletes looking to make slacklining their profession in India yet?
Nope. I am the only one so far. There are numerous people who Slacklife Inc. hires on a freelance basis. But no one apart from me doing this full time as far as I am aware.

If someone reads this and wants to give slacklining a go, how and where do they start out?
If you are in Delhi reach out to the slackline community there on facebook – Slacktivism
If you are in Bangalore reach out to the slackline community on facebook  – Slack.in
We also have a new page to connect slackers from across India – Slackline India

If you wish to hire a professional to run you through your first steps in balance – Contact me.
Website: www.slacklife.co.in email: info@slacklife.co.in

Shimul Bijoor
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