Have you ever wondered how long your focus could last while walking on top of a one-inch-wide piece of slackline webbing? Theoretically, if a line continued in distance for as long as the eye could see, at what point would you fall off? At what point would the world’s best balanced athletes fall off? The discipline of “longlining” attempts to answer this question and the numbers continue to exponentially grow as webbing technology advances as so does the skill level of slackliners worldwide. This question of length then becomes the main focus and adversary for “longliners” who naturally take this challenge to great heights as well.
Antony Newton making giant strides across 1,617 feet of webbing.
In the world there exists a very small niche community of highly trained slackliners who devote their balanced practices to pushing distance and height. In my experience of being surrounded by these talented individuals, the majority of them aren’t doing this to stroke their own personal egos or for any real claim to fame. After all, walking across a slackline is a very arbitrary and personal accomplishment all things considered. Instead,what I’ve noticed is that their deepest motivations and desires to push the limits of body and mind stem from a profound need to be the best version of themselves. To explore their outer limits and see what is humanly possible when strict rules and definitions are ignored. During this Fall season, those limits were pushed longer and higher than they ever had been before. Read more
I’ve just gotten back from the humid jungles of Borneo, where myself and other members of the Moab Monkey crew installed a new custom space net in celebration of preserving biodiversity. We spent the past week enjoying the sights and sounds of Sandakan, Borneo, rigging a colorful “Jungle Nest” above a beautiful lake at the Rainforest Discovery Centre. This was all coordinated as part of an amazing annual festival to celebrate, preserve and teach about the immediate need to protect our rapidly disappearing jungle environments. Over a two day period, hundreds of professional artists, educators and musicians gathered at the 2015 Rhythms of Rimba celebration to share their thoughts, concerns and plans to slow the destruction of their surrounding jungle. During the event it was our duty to facilitate over 200 people from the general public, getting in and out of the suspended net (with a huge amount of help from local Bornean climbers), to enjoy a new perspective of the canopy life around them. Although our role may not have been as educational as the professional lectures given, it offered attendees the opportunity to push themselves past comfort levels in their beautiful home and see new perspectives along the way. We also took advantage of this time to rig several slacklines in the area to teach the general public how to walk again. This gave them a greater appreciation for their own personal balance and mind power, which empowers humans for life.
One of the biggest steps in preserving the rapidly disappearing jungles, due to expanding palm oil plantations and other forms of corporate exploitation, is the simple act of educating people on the importance of protecting biodiversity as a whole. If you don’t understand the fragility of your own home or wildlife, you’re less likely to take a stand against its destruction. Similarly, if you don’t value its natural presence then you won’t see the absolute need for its existence. This is why the festival was created, to make a positive impact on the surrounding communities and take a stand against the decimation of our own biodiversity.
Orangutans in rehabiliation
Orangutans in rehabiliation
Sun Bears in rehabilitation
Sun Bears in rehabilitation
Sun Bears in rehabilitation
By deforesting our rainforests in the name of human greed we simultaneously destroy all fragile ecosystems, plants and animals that require them to live, including ourselves. Borneo supports over 15,000 different plant species alone, which rivals that of the entire African continent, and may well represent the highest level of over all plant diversity on planet Earth. A lot of this vegetation remains endemic to the unique island of Borneo, so when rampant deforestation and wildfires takes place, as a direct result of the growing palm oil industry, this precious life disappears forever. When you take into account that many endangered species are already struggling to live on this large island (the thirds largest in the world after Greenland and New Guinea), such as the colugo flying squirrels, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, orangutans, clouded leopards, gibbons and sun bears, you realize many changes need to be made in regard to our human behaviors and priorities for this biodiversity to continue existing. If drastic changes aren’t made more life will be lost and our future generations will be deprived of a more diverse world to live in.
Yoga has always been a part of my daily life of stretching and being outside. The constant search to find inner stillness, better breathe and greater flexibility in my movement has always been a joyful meditation, but I’ve always been more drawn to sharing the experience through more playful forms of balance such as slacklining, climbing and acrobatic yoga. Instead of focusing on individual static poses and personal progression, combining the finesse and flowing movement of two people together has continued to be a more relaxed and playful practice for me. I was first introduced to acroyoga a couple years ago while living in Oregon and I was immediately intrigued by the focus and flexibility required of two people to find balance together in a very simple yet beautifully complex form of choreographed motion. The creative flows are infinite, the mood always light and the natural settings where we practice are continuously shifting. In drawing on my skills and experience with wrestling and mixed martial arts, where the goal is to counterbalance your opponent and dominate their body position, I found that transforming combative dance into its opposite focus, where cultivating a mutual balance was the goal, has brought me a new sense of mutual accomplishment.
Last winter I was approached by my good friends Scott Rogers and Dallin Smith with a project idea that would join our combined skills of acroyoga, desert climbing and extensive ropes rigging in a new form of adventurous and artistic expression. To take these three disciplines and combine them into a single project, where the natural beauty of Moab’s desert towers could be displayed alongside the flowing balance of humans, became the new focus to pursue. Being the desert wanderers that we are here in Moab, Utah, Scott and I started to brainstorm some interesting environments where acroyoga could be practiced in new exposed ways. After deliberating on a number of different desert towers in the local area; which we had previously climbed, established highlines atop and BASE jumped from, we concluded that this concept of tower yoga could be achieved realistically in our own backyard. Very quickly Trimr water bottles was excited by the idea and the project was set in motion. Over a cold three day period, Scott and I climbed a couple towers, fixed ropes to their summits and began planning the logistics of getting the other yogis out to these remotely exposed locations.
After two days of filming, flowing, and running around the desert to various spots, the video that you see before you was completed. I want to thank Trimr water bottles and Dallin Smith for supporting our adventurous scheming in the desert and supporting all the artistic talent for this video to come to fruition. To Chris Newman and Dakota Walbeck of CineChopper aerials for nailing all the incredible flying shots you see in the short. To Kesley Ondine and Christiana Giordano for braving the elements and putting so much trust in my ability to balance people in precarious places. Last of all I want to give a big bro hug to my best friend Scott Rogers for helping to make this dream a reality. Scott is one of the most talented all around people I’ve ever met in his ability to balance the responsibilities of filming, rigging, climbing and organizing such an awesome project. You’re all an inspiration to me and I hope with all my heart that we continue to chase our extravagant dreams and watch this concept grow with new opportunities where we can practice our balance in more exposed environments.
Every year during the Fall season in Moab, there’s been a growing number of adventure sport athletes who converge in this incredible desert landscape to enjoy the elevated views and exciting new ways to get blood pumping through our veins. Amongst the two main adventure groups who gather here are the BASE jumpers and highliners, who come from all around the world for the annual Turkey BASE Boogie (ongoing for more than 15 years) and G.G.B.Y. highline gathering (with its 8th annual celebration). Both communities come to the same desert playground to celebrate life together and push themselves in new innovative ways with their respective sports, but often we’re spread out across the vast red cliffs having different adventures with land and air. The highliners spend long periods of time honing their focus walking across long one-inch wide pieces of webbing in space while the jumpers gather in masses across cliff edges to throw themselves into the abyss for a wild and fast paced flight to the canyon floor below. Both activities attract different crowds with varying dangerous interests, but the fact remains that we all love this shared desert paradise for the same reasons of its undeniable beauty, solitude and freedom. Despite our differing focuses, we all love being immersed in nature and spending time with our friends in a quiet environment.
This year’s gathering, however, felt noticeably different than all others in the past for one main reason… The “Mothership Space Net Penthouse” was born and both groups found themselves working together as a team to rig and share the same pentagon shaped hammock, which was suspended 400′ above the rocky desert floor. Highliners attempted to walk across the five different legs of the net, varying in lengths up to 80 meters long (262 feet), BASE jumpers leapt daily from the human sized hole in the middle of the net and paragliders made several flybys while dropping wingsuit pilots from above to buzz by groups of friends hanging out in the net. This upgrade of size to the space net concept was a massive scale up from the 2012 three sided “Space Thong” design, which was also shared by both groups but with less cohesiveness. A big undertaking during its time but clearly just the first steps toward bigger goals and dreams.
This all would not have been made possible with out the huge communal effort it took to hand weave this new space net by more than 50 different BASE jumpers, highliners and friendly volunteers over a 3 day period prior to its one day installation between the canyon. This was without a doubt one of the most unique Thanksgiving gatherings we’ve had out here in the Moab desert, where not one athlete was injured during the duration of such dangerous stunts. In the end, everyone was very thankful for the new relationships and community that came together because it represented something bigger than any one person.
Looking back at this incredible year of smiles and adventure, I take a moment of pause to reminisce about the wonderful fruition of many outdoor projects and the unfortunate demise of others. I’m reminded of how much life can turn on a dime and lead us in new wonderful directions when we least expect them to. As one door closes inevitably others will open, and this spontaneity of opportunities always makes me excited for the unexpected paths ahead. Out here in the crisp cool conditions of Moab’s fine desert, the Moab Monkeys have been raging hard and taking advantage of the incredible weather as the winter season slowly approaches. This is about the time I start making plans for travel to the southern hemisphere and this year it’s looking like Southeast Asia is calling. In this brief moment, however, I sip my coffee outside and reflect on the incredible hot air balloon highline stunt my friends and I recently accomplished outside Las Vegas. I’m including here the 3 part video series that covers the full story and build up to success, which Cody Tuttle and myself filmed and edited together.
This incredible idea was inspired by the video produced by Seb Montaz and the “Skyliners,“ who made the first, but unsuccessful attempts, to walk the highest slackline between two moving hot air balloons in Spain. Following up on this attempt the Moab Monkeys were more than psyched and qualified to give the challenge a new go. The project was an incredible feat to tackle and through their initial exploratory efforts we were able to repeat it with some minor rigging modifications to make the highline a little more stable. The entire story of how this all came to be is truly impressive. In a 24 hour period more than 24 different professionals were quickly assembled in Las Vegas to attempt this stunt once and for all. In essence, we organized our own team of world-class wingsuit pilots, BASE jumpers, highliners, Las Vegas balloon pilots, aerial silks performers, riggers and cameramen to give this experience a solid attempt and it was ultimately executed with perfection. The end result was an awesome success of epic gravity sport shenanigans with an aerial Cirque du Soleil performance high above the desert floor. Cody Tuttle and myself edited and released a short trailer of what happened on February 18th, 2014 but here before you is the full 3 part series that tells the story in its complete form.
For every story they say there is a beginning, middle and end. For this story there is a stop in Thailand, Poland and Switzerland. During this short journey of 3 weeks around the world Scott Rogers and myself spent about a weeks time in each country playing with gravity and doing a little “work” along the way. It was a trip of firsts for me experiencing my first (B)uilding jump in Bangkok, being part of a team rigging a new world record urban highline, committing to my first terminal BASE jumps from amazing cliffs in Lauterbrunnen and seeing so much more along the way. I attempted to take some photos on the blazing trail and here are a few I wanted to share to give a glimpse of the beauty and diversity of the sights, sounds and people we got to play and smile with. I hope you enjoy!
Chapter One: The 6th Annual Urban Highline Festival (Lublin, Poland)
Slackliners from around the world have been gathering in the quaint historical town of Lublin, Poland for the past six years rigging dozens of highlines in this amazing urban setting. Thanks to the efforts of Jan Galek, Faith Dickey, Jordan Tybon, Wojtek Kozakiewicz and so many more, this gathering continues to gain momentum and attendees as the slack scene gets bigger and more individuals are discovering the benefits of being better balanced people. This celebration takes place alongside a massive gathering of Carnaval where mimes, aerial silk performers, contortionists and other artists come together to showcase their skills and vision with a big audience that casually strolls through the town square as highliners walk above in every direction. The vibe is so much different than Bangkok and it was an incredible experience to see so many familiar and new faces that have become the community of modern slacklining. Officially the Europeans have been pushing the sport in a huge way making been advances in the lengths of highlines being walked today and exploring new environments to construct these lines in space. Without a doubt the church lines were my favorite to walk at this gathering since its such a unique opportunity to walk in this sacred space… If I could share one bit of advice it would be to attend this event every year if you have the chance!
Chapter Two: The Valley of Death or Glory (Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland)
Welcome to the world of 2,000 foot tall limestone cliffs amidst the most beautiful alpine mountain environment you’ve ever imagined. With gondola services that take you to the top of either side of the valley where countless world-class BASE exits await the brave and bold, this place is either a Disneyland paradise for talented trackers and wingsuit pilots or the Valley of Death if you make any mistake. Taking anywhere between 8-15 seconds delay before pitching your pilot chute and being under an inflated canopy, you can leap from these heights and fly like superman away from the towering walls to touch down in a grassy field and have a 15 minute walk to the nearest local pub. For those more adventurous types, a couple gondola rides and a 3 hour hike can get you to the top of the infamous Eiger or other alpine regions where you can expect a 45 second flight or more depending on your skill level and chosen flying suit… This place absolutely blew my mind in terms of how outrageously scenic it was and the seriousness of performing every jump with perfect execution. It seemed everyday someone was having a cliff strike, landing in the tall trees or worse, which added to the commitment level of every action you took. I’ve made it a goal to spend time in this place every year as long as I’m current in my flying skills, because I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to spend time with friends truly flying in a dreamlike environment. Thanks so much to Andy Lewis, Scott Rogers and Jimmy Peterson for being there for my first long delays, you brothers will always be near and dear to my heart!