In spring 2012, a small group of students tried to slackline, a variation on tightrope walking, between two trees just north of the campus green. They set up an inch-wide line 20 feet in the air, planning to walk and perform tricks on the cord, with harnesses to hold them in case something went wrong.
But organizer Derek Cox said he couldn’t even walk onto the line before campus police busted the event.
“I was up in the tree, but we ended up getting stopped,” said Cox, from Suwanee, now a 19-year-old sophomore.
Police even threatened to fine potential slackliners. But instead of quitting or going underground, Cox said they began the process of starting an official campus club. It took until just before the start of the fall semester, but the slacklining club was approved as a legitimate campus activity.
Cox said he initially didn’t think the school would approve the club. While slacklining is popular at other college campuses, he doesn’t know of one with an official school-sanctioned club.
“We had to do a lot of things with the legal part of it,” he said.
Since they got approval, the students set up a slackline between two trees on just about any day when the weather is good. Though they have placed it as high as 10 feet, the club usually sets the line about 3 feet off the ground. Some walk back and forth across the line, while others perform backflips or other stunts.
Lucas Freeman, 19, a sophomore from Powder Springs, said slacklining differs from traditional tightrope walking because of the tricks slackliners can do. The cord is basically an inch-wide trampoline, which they tighten for tricks, or loosen to provide balance for walking across.
“I just grew up on trampolines, doing tricks in the backyard,” Freeman said. “So I just took it to the slackline.”
Cox said he found out about slacklining when he saw people doing it at a nearby rockclimbing gym. After he became involved with it, his roommates soon gained interest. They are now avid members of the club.
They admit the sport can be tricky, with some students landing on their heads or hurting their toes. But sophomore Brandon Harris of Dalton compares it to riding a bicycle.
“It took me about two hours to get two steps online,” said Harris, 20. “But once you get it, you never really forget it.”
Freeman said the key to staying interested in slacklining is to constantly come up with new tricks.
“People take it to new heights over canyons and stuff,” he said. “It never gets boring. There’s always something new you can learn.”
Each day when they slackline, more students are intrigued, with some coming over to take part themselves. To join the club, students need only sign a liability waiver. Cox said that, so far, about 50 have signed up.
The slackliners have even been able to meet some co-eds while between the trees. And the women took to the sport quicker than they did.
“We had some girls who tried it, and after two or three hours, they were masters,” said 19-year old sophomore Austin Williams of Calhoun.
“It’s not fair,” Cox said. “It took me forever.”