Hi everyone, Mikaela here, back at you with another expert interview. This time, I had the opportunity to interview an adventure athlete I’ve been admiring for a long time now. Heather Larsen is a pro slackliner and when you see the kinds of stunts she can do on a line suspended high above the ground, you’re going to be an admirer too. (If you’re not familiar with slacklining, here’s it described by Slackline US).
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from and what you do when you’re not slacklining?
I’m from Jackson, TN, but I’ve been living out west for the past 10 years. I have split my time between Colorado, Arizona and Utah, currently calling southwest Utah home. The desert has always drawn me to it, regardless of how far I stray from it, but this time it definitely feels more permanent.
When I am not slacklining, you can find me out on a trail run or bike ride usually. I’ve recently gotten back into rock climbing as well. I’ve always found it difficult to sit still, so if I’m not out on a line, I am still probably out exploring!
The heights and lengths at which you slack line are incredible. How did you first get started in slack lining and how did you transition to such large heights and far distances?
I first got started slacklining through climbing. I was on a climbing trip with some friends when I was introduced to the sport. Unlike most slackliners, my first experience with the line was on a highline. Being exposed to highlining before even slacklining in the park, I think this is what made me work so hard to be able to walk and do tricks on highlines.
You project a lot of confidence on the slack line, but when you’re suspended so high off the ground are you ever worried or scared that something might go wrong? What do you do to keep yourself focused and confident in your own abilities?
I am not typically worried that something will go wrong on a highline. The rigging process is so thorough and redundant, as long as I trust my rigging and my crew, I know I am fine out there. That doesn’t mean that I don’t experience fear out on the line. That still creeps in, especially if I am on a line that is longer than I am comfortable with yet. Exposure still initiates fear in me and I just have to remember all of the training I’ve put in and trust my abilities to walk the line. I take deep breaths and focus on the things that feel good instead of the things that make me nervous.
Despite the thorough rigging, have you ever experienced a close call or a near accident when you’ve been slack lining?
I’ve never had a “close call”. I’ve gotten injured, as athletes do from any sport. I try to learn from those times and be smart about how I go about things the next time.
In your experience, have you found slack lining to be a male-dominated adventure sport? Have you ever felt like you needed to prove yourself or prove that you deserved a place in the sport?
Even though it is majority male, I feel freedom to pursue the sport on my own terms. You won’t see many of the guys doing the same things I do on the line, but we all have mutual respect for each other’s talents and passions.
Have you found there to be any misconceptions about slack lining? Is there anything you wish people knew or better understood about the sport?
There is a perception out there that we are a bunch of hippy kids just goofing off. The truth is – slacklining is fun! A lot of our training doesn’t look the same as other sports and it’s hard to define what a “good” slackliner is, as there is so much creativity that goes into each person’s style on the line.
Another perception that just isn’t true is that we are reckless adrenaline junkies. Our rigging is actually some of the safest, most redundant gear you’ll come across in the outdoor industry. Highlining can stir up some adrenaline for sure, but you have to stay calm and collected to send a highline. It tends to be more meditative than anything.
To end off, I’d imagine slack lining must be one of your greatest passions as you invest so much time and effort into it and appear to enjoy it so much. What it is about slack lining that excites and motivates you?
What excites and motivates me the most is getting outside to experience nature in a different way and to see new places all the time. I love exploring and I am constantly looking for new gaps to rig. Ultimately, if I’m outside interacting with the beauty around me, I am so happy, whether I am slacklining, running or just reading a book.
You can check out more of Heather’s slacklining on her Instagram page.
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