Slacklining smarts from well-balanced pro Heather Larsen

You don't just start tightrope walking one day. If you want to learn the modern version of this sport — slacklining — there's technique and practice involved.

Heather Larsen on the slackline

Heather Larsen shows off her over-the-water slackline moves at Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games. Photo: Courtesy of Slackline Industries

But with slacklines — considered a killer cross-training workout — tied to more park and backyard trees than ever, there's no better time to give this balancing act a try. What do you have to lose? (Maybe your pride, momentarily.)

Luckily, top slackliner Heather Larsen, 31, is here to help. The Salt Lake City–based Slackline Industries-sponsored athlete, who specializes in freaky highlining (harnessed slacklining hundreds of feet in the air), static poses and arm balances, has traveled all over the world to far-flung locations like Tasmania, Jerusalem and Bosnia to establish lines and perform at special events.

Heather Larsen highlining

Heather Larsen highlines across a canyon. Photo: Courtesy of Heather Larsen

Next month, Larsen teaches an Introduction to Slacklining course at Utah's Snowbasin Mountain Resort, where people like you and me get to get schooled. The class will include basic techniques for staying atop slacklines, plus ways to improve balance, core strength and concentration.

"We will work on standing on the line, spotting other slackliners safely and starting to walk the line," Larsen tells GrindTV. "If students are progressing quickly, I will move into teaching different types of walking, exercises and poses on the lines we have rigged."

In advance of the class, Larsen agreed to share some secrets for beginners.

Rig your kit

Heather Larsen over city

The better you get, the higher you may want to go. Photo: Jacob Pawlak

A starter kit is a good way to go. Slackline Industries has a beginner baseline package with everything you need to put a line between two trees in your backyard or a park: ratchet, line and tree protection.

Start short and low

Acrobatic moves like static poses and arm holds are an advanced form of slacklining. Photo: Courtesy of Julie Lohre

Get started with a short line and keep it low to the ground so there's less high consequence with your falls until you can dial in technique. Set your line up at a height that you can bail from safely.

A spotter is always good when you are beginning too. For children, you can rig a "help line" above the main line, but kids can also learn to spot each other.

Breathe and have fun

Take a few deep breaths before you get on the line. You want to be as relaxed as possible while still engaging in the activity. Everyone is shaky at first, but it just takes a few tries and some helpful instruction to start feeling stable and, hopefully, taking a few steps.

Remember, slacklining is supposed to be fun.

Find a focal point

Heather Larsen over water

Keeping your hands high is a helpful tip to get balanced when slacklining. Photo: Courtesy of Martin Hernandez

When you step onto the line, find a good focal point that is not moving. I usually look at a spot on the tree by the anchor in front of me. Have your hands above your head, feet in line with the line and your shoulders squared up to the end of the line. Be loose and calm with your movements, and just get used to standing on the line before you take any steps.

Begin balancing drills

Practice standing on each foot individually, with the other foot flagged out to the side. After you feel comfortable with that, try standing with both feet on the line. Hopefully after drilling this in you can link a few steps.

One thing I always like to tell people is to smile and breathe. It will help ease any tension you have on the line.

More tips for walking the line from GrindTV

No balance? Here's why you should try slacklining anyway

Highlining: The stillness and the fear

Slackline yoga is the latest fitness craze