Loose and tight slacklines
To perform Highline Freestyle tricks it is important to have the right tension. When the slackline is too loose it won’t give you the necessary energy to do your tricks. The highline would feel powerless and surfy. If the line is too tight, then you’ll easily get the necessary pop but landing tricks would become extremely difficult because the line then feels aggressive and kicks you off easily. And also a tight line surfs, simply in a different pattern. That is why it is so important to find the correct highline freestyle tension.
Even experienced freestylers sometimes don’t know whether the highline is too tight or too loose – they just feel that something is not perfectly right with the setup. A LineScale would clearly help to solve the problem, but not everybody can or is willing to afford such a device.
How to find the perfect Highline Freestyle tension without a dyno?
We have now found an inexpensive way to know if the tension is too loose, too high or just perfect. After a leash fall when the highline starts surfing and bouncing, you simply have to sit on the line and try not to move. The slackline will start to do circles. But not a constant circle pattern – the direction of the circles will change after a few surfs and bounces.
Your challenge now is, to count the number of circles before the direction changes again. Don’t worry, you won’t have to sit and count for a long time. The perfect Highline Freestyle tension is around 2 circles or just slightly more before the direction changes. Of course the exact amount of circles is a matter of personal taste and also depends on the tricks you’d like to perform. But after asking quite a few freestylers, we came to the conclusion that 2 is about the magic number. The line then feels powerful but not yet aggressive.
The perfect Highline Freestyle Setup
We have tried to optimize the technique and do some finetuning when tensioning. And yes, it has worked out just like it should! To be able to reach an amazing setup you should make sure that the anchor points are nice and straight, the bolts not too far from one another and the anchor slings should not induce a surf. Ideally the metal is placed really close to the anchor to not induce oscillations to the highline system.
For our tests we have rigged a 65m long highline with an LSDTube as main and Y2K as backup. Of course with an intermittent connection. When tensioning for the first time you can be pretty radical. Simply pull 50-100cm more out of the system then necessary. The tension will settle down really fast and after 10 minutes the line will feel much looser. If it is still too loose, you can again pull out 50cm. On our test setup we’ve done that all and after retensioning once, the line felt just great to bounce. Maybe just a little bit too tight. After falling it made like two and a quarter circles. One hour and an amazing session later, the line felt just a litte loose, down to about one and three quarter circles. Time to tension again.
And here the finetuning starts. We see most people simply pulling radically again in this situation. However, now it is time to be very careful with the system. Only about 5cm should be pulled now to reach the sweet tension again. To do that, you can place your HangOver Pulley system in a way that makes it impossible to pull more than the desired amount. If using a 3:1, place the HangOver in a way that it would touch the seaHorse after 5cm. If using a 5:1, place the HangOvers so that they touch one another after 5cm pulling. Pull gently as metal pieces will eventually touch one another. With this gentle readjustment you will be able to keep the perfect tension for all future sessions.
And that’s exactly what we did on that 65m LSDTube setup. And wow, this was probably the most performant highline setup we’ve ever had! Some tricks and combos that are normally at the personal limit suddenly felt extremely easy. The line was a dream!
How highline freestyle tension is influenced by humidity?
Highlining is an outdoor sport and changes in temperatures and humidity are just happening all the time. And they will influence the tension of the slackline. Water binds to Nylon / polyamide and changes the characteristics of the line. A humid line becomes looser but at the same time the bounce will become almost endless. No hard bottoming out. A slightly humid highline feels like the nicest setup to many freestylers.
In the evening when the temperature drops, humidity will rise. The highline will suddenly feel looser and less bouncy. Slight tensioning is OK in this situation but only a little!! Otherwise the setup will feel crazy tight and aggressive the next day when the sun and heat starts drying the line. So be careful with retensioning humid lines – also be very cautious when tensioning if rain sets in. The weather will turn good sooner or later…
If you pull your slackline through a lake or the sea in the rigging process, be aware that you should put less tension than usual. The drying process will tension your line automatically to a certain extend…
Length of the highline
Most Highline Freestyle setups are between 50 and 80m long. Overall longer lines need slightly more tension than shorter ones. At least if measured with a dyno. With the circle method it seems that the 2-circle-rule applies to all kinds of length. However, this method is very recent and we’ll need more feedback from experienced highliners about it. This is also one of the reasons we publish this article. Feedback is very welcome. The more feedback we get, the more the method can be improved. And hopefully the more it can be improved the more fun your highline sessions will be in future!
And the Highline Freestyle forces in kilonewton?
Standing tension (the tension when nobody is on the highline) in our 65m rig was around 2.3kN. At the 1st Highline Freestyle World Championships in Laax, where 65m long highlines have been rigged on pinkTube webbing, the favorite tension of the athletes have been 2.1kN and 2.4kN. So this is the range of standing tension for a 65m rig with pinkTube and LSDTube. Other slacklines and other lengths will have different sweet standing tensions. Also here, more will be found out in the future. Highline Freestyle is a relatively new sport and almost weekly new knowledge is being gained.
Watching other highliners
One more cool thing with the circle method is the fact, that you can estimate the tension just while watching other highliners. Once they take a whipper and need a few seconds to recover while sitting on the highline, you can watch the surfing pattern from the anchor point. So even before you mount the slackline, you’ll know how it might feel and whether it is necessary to slightly tension the highline before you go for your session.
We’re aware that it is not super easy to count the number of circles. But the surf patterns can be learned with a bit of experience. And if you really want to develop a feeling for a perfect setup we think that it is worth investing a few minutes into understanding the patterns and into finding your personal favorite pattern.
Feedback on this article is really welcome because this is a new way to find out the sweet tension. Do you agree with the method? How many circles do you like on your line? Simply share your feedback in the text box below and we’ll take them into account to update the article and increase the knowledge soon…
SLACKTIVITY Slacklines co-founder, managing partner and team athlete, Samuel Volery olds multiple highline world records (1900m – September 2019) and has a spectacular and versatile style when performing highline-shows.