Hello again! My name is Emily Sukiennik (for those of you that are a bit confused it’s pro-nouced Sue-Ken-Nick). I’d like to take a minute to talk about how the sport of slacklining has changed my life. If you are once again confused and aren’t quite sure what slacklining is, I’ll give you the low down: it’s a balance sport originating in Yosemite Valley, California that was founded by a group of rock climbers. As boredom set in on their rainy days at the campsite they strung up their climbing webbing and began balancing on it. The sport is quite similar to tight rope walking in its essence but the main difference is the material used. Tight ropes are made of taught wire or rope whereas slacklines are dynamic/stretchy webbing. Not only is the material different but so is the balancing technique. Slacklining requires no balancing pole which means you must utilize your entire body to stay upright. Also because of the difference in material, a slackline is much more portable. Yay!
That being said, I fell in love with the sport in 2009 and am excited to talk about how it changed my life for the better. I was 22 years old, living in Georgia and wasn’t quite sure who I was or what I was meant to do in life. For some reason that I am still very confused about, I had an incredibly overwhelming urge to move to the San Francisco Bay Area. I asked my boyfriend at the time if he would like to join me but he only had 2 years left in school and wanted to finish (and I didn’t blame him). I decided that I just had to go. I packed my bags into my tiny little Saab and off we went (and by we, I mean me and my little dog too). Luckily, when I got to the Bay I stumbled upon a brand new climbing gym that I was eventually hired at; and that’s where slackline and I met. We fell in love immediately and I couldn’t seem to spend much time away from it. I became obsessed with mastering my balance which turned out to be no easy task. I started on a 20 foot long line very low to the ground and as difficult as it was, I just kept trying. During my off time at the gym, I would run over to the slacklines and practice. For some reason I did NOT want to walk away from the challenge. It always felt just out of reach. The first time I walked that line I felt completely elated. I had worked so hard to make it all the way across and I couldn’t believe that I had finally done it. But, now what? I was a little disappointed that I had completed my goal, similar to the feeling of finishing a really good book that you just don’t want to end. I decided it was time to try and turn around at the end of the line and walk back to the start. I had seen the owner of the gym, Damian, do this and I figured it was the logical next step. This process went on for quite some time, me finding a new goal that I just had to complete. It was turning into my motivator, my purpose, my stress relief and even my friend. Eventually I started to get into highlining which added a completely new element into the game: fear. Now, not only was I challenging myself physically but also mentally. I not only had to walk the line but I had to allow myself to! Stepping off of solid ground onto a 1 inch wide piece of webbing is quite possibly the most terrifying thing I had ever done but still, highlining became my obsession. There was something about being utterly frozen in fear but stepping out into the abyss anyway. I felt so full of strength and just knew that I could do anything.
All my life I have been into athletics (thanks Dad for introducing me to them!). But, nothing has affected me as much as this bizarre little sport called slacklining. Since discovering it, being about 4 years later, I feel like a completely different person than I was at age 22. Slacklining taught me how to set goals for myself and work to reach them, no matter how small those goals might be. It taught me that even though things can be extremely difficult, just keep going and eventually, you will get there. There’s no better feeling than reaching a goal after a lot of sweat and tears. It taught me that the harder something is, the stronger you will be on the other side of it. Slacklining, for me, has been the perfect metaphor for life. When I’m walking, I try so hard not to fall and not to give up because I know that I’m not just fighting to stay balanced but I’m fighting to be stronger. It’s not just a sport for me, it’s a challenge that I’ve been given to strengthen myself as a person. Now, whenever I am dealing with tough times in life I just imagine myself on the line and what it feels like to fight and make it to the other side. I am so grateful to have found the sport and feel so strong because of it. Coming from someone who found that “something special”, it’s out there! You just have to listen to your gut and go find it.
For more on me, check out my website: www.emilysukiennik.com