WORLD RECORD FREE SOLO HIGHLINE WALK: 180′ without a leash
On August 17th of 2011, Andy Lewis officially became the first person to walk 180 feet on a slackline suspended more than 200 dizzying feet above the desert floor… WITHOUT A LEASH. To those of you who don’t understand climbing or slackline terminology, this is referred to as free soloing, where the practitioner is void of any back-up connection or protection to the slackline outside of his/her own ability to stay balanced on top of it step by step. The options here are: to either flawlessly walk the line from one end to the other, to fall but subsequently latch onto the line for dear life, or the the third alternative, being the most obvious and most dreaded, is death. It’s a specialized discipline of highlining which the majority of all slackliners and highliners world-wide will never attempt, which isolates an even smaller community into another sub-section of the most trained and confident balanced practitioners. It requires a sharp mind, a trained body, flawless movements and an unparalleled confidence in your own ability to fully live in the moment and respond to the slacklines energy. For many years, Andy has been developing these skills to achieve this type of perfected feat in a relatively safe fashion. I say “relatively safe” because nothing is guaranteed in this pursuit, but risk can be mitigated with proper preparation. Don’t be fooled, however, despite his composure in the above video Andy actually did bail/catch this monstrous highline on two different attempts before successfully walking its full length without a leash.
There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes leading up to this accomplishment, which is rarely acknowledged in a short 4 minute video. Having the courage to confront falling twice on this line, while still mustering the energy to try a third time is something poetically crazy and beautiful. It was somewhat nerve racking to film this walk on my behalf, but considering Andy’s long training background, my experience around his risky shenanigans and bold decisions, accompanied by the events leading up to this day I was ultimately supportive of the dream he had been chasing down for so many years. After walking the “Great Bongzilla” over 10 different times with various types of leashes, offering minimal safety and protection, and having free-soloed over 60 different highlines that same year without injury or death, it was obvious if anyone was prepared enough for such a challenge it was Andy himself. He was physically capable of walking the line without any safety aid, he just had to put confidence into action… That being said, understanding something is possible and actually experiencing it as a LIVED reality are two very distinct achievements and epiphanies to have. Knowing that you can confidently walk a slackline without stumbling or having a mis-step 99% of the time is one thing, actually doing it is quite another. With the added mental stress of exposure alongside the fact that your body is absolutely free of any attachment whatsoever can be difficult to manage physically and mentally. It requires an advanced level of focus matched with a philosophy of detachment, which allows you to fully let go of the future and only acknowledge the present moment. This, I assure you from experience, is a very different mental place to be in while trying to calmly balance across a single inch-wide piece of webbing, which moves with the wind and is constantly oscillating up and down/left to right because of your body’s response.
The above video piece is an original production put together by Andy Lewis for EpicTV. It features the above mentioned current world-record free solo walk at its conclusion with an awesome soundtrack of lyrics and guitar beats that match the tone and narration of the theme. It was an honor to be there that day, to witness, to document and be a part of history being made right in front of me. There were no commercial interests involved, or any other bullshit dramas to dilute the purity of what was happening on a very deep level for Andy. Step by step, he made a dream manifest into reality after years of perseverance and dedicated hard work on the line. The setting was merely a handful of friends gathered around a small campfire in the desert playing some music on the guitar. We were doing what we all love most, which was simply balancing on slacklines in space, isolated in the deep desert environment of beautiful Moab. I’m proud to say, this is the exact expression of what Slacklife has come to be for me and my fellow monkey friends. We live and die to fulfill our biggest dreams and try to never underestimate the moment to moment happenings all around us. Cheers to a life well lived, a dream come true and many more adventures to come along the way…