KOCHI: Strolling through Cubbon Park, Bengaluru, one evening in August 2016, Sibby Varghese spotted a group gathered around what looked like a rope tied to two trees about three feet off the ground. As he stopped to look further, Sibby saw a man climbing onto the rope, trying to balance and walk along its length. Intrigued, he stood watching as everyone in the group took turns to do the same.
As a former athlete, he decided to give it a try. Unbeknownst to him, Sibby was witnessing a Slackline gathering, a sport that would soon become his passion. In five months, he walked his first Highline in Lonavala, an advanced version where the line is rigged (set up) at an elevation, often from cliff to cliff, a few hundred feet above sea level.
Sibby was in the city to host Kochi’s first Slackline event in Panampilly Nagar Central Park on Sunday. “Slacklining is a very new sport which is just evolving, so not many people know about it. Even the gear needs to be imported from abroad. I am here to start a small Slackline community in Kerala because this is my home state and I think there is a lot of potential,” says Sibby.
Even at its nascent stage, slackliners across the world have accorded the sport a distinct character. Sibby talks about two styles that are garnering popularity in the Indian circuit. Tricklining involves performing stunts on the line while the other form is a more static style referred to as slackline yoga where the slackliners attempt to stage yoga asanas on the tensioned web line.
The activity occupies a precarious space as an adventure sport. “As a beginner, slacklining is all about mastering your body balance. Once you achieve that, it becomes a mind game as you attempt the Highline. Walking on a tensioned web (line) so many feet above needs getting over one’s deepest fears,” adds Sibby who also runs a travel company called Trek Tales. According to Sibby, slacklining is very much a meditative process.
“When I walked my first line, I felt like I was meditating. The basics of slacklining are similar to it, the walk requires you to focus all your energies on a point, make sure you breathe, engage your core and place your arms in a certain way. You have to concentrate on placing yourself in an introspective zone and only then can you make through,” he notes.
This zealous slackliner who has participated in all major events across the country has big plans for the sport in Kerala. “My long-term goal is to organise one of the largest Slackline gatherings in Kochi. I want more and more people to take up the sport,” he concludes.