Slacklining’s Big Break: Q&A with BSC President Hannah Varner

We know the Super Bowl halftime show is prone to mishaps and malfunctions, so when a geeky dude named Andy Lewis started wobbling on a rope last Sunday, Americans collectively held their breath. Thankfully, the toga-clad man nailed his routine by sticking a backflip as the camera panned to move on to the next spectacle. It was LMFAO’s moment, but many viewers were still fixated on the other curly-haired dude and his rope acrobatics. The fledgling sport of slacklining had been introduced to America.

Slacklining started with a group of rock climbers who decided to kill some downtime by balancing on inch-wide nylon webbing. Needless to say, it’s come a long way. People like Andy Lewis (whose messiah-status amongst slackliners was cemented after his Super Bowl performance) constantly further the sport by developing new tricks that involve jumping and balancing on the slackline. Over the years, it’s grown from an obscure hobby to a full-fledged sport with competitions across the country, and it’s only getting bigger.

Naturally, Brown students were ahead of the curve in terms of slacklining. The Brown Slackline Club, founded by alum Kyle Cackett ’11, has been setting up lines on the Main Green for over a year now. Since then, the club has been growing at a rapid pace. BlogDailyHerald decided to have a chat with the club’s president, Hannah Varner ’14, to get a better sense of the quickly rising sport and how it’s done at Brown. Check it out after the jump.

BlogDH: Can you describe your first slacklining experience?

Hannah Varner: The first time I tried slacklining it was definitely a lesson in jumping off the line more than anything else. I had found the club at the mid-year activities fair and thought that with some background in gymnastics, slacklining would be fun and not all that difficult. I was half right! Very fun but not really simple — that adds to the fun of it.

BlogDH: What would you say the biggest draw of the sport is?

HV: I’ve heard people give many different reasons for what keeps them coming back to slacklining. For some people, it’s how you can really “get in the zone” when slacklining and relax. Personally, I like to think of a slackline as a “two inch wide trampoline” with all the fun, excitement and thrill that go along with that…

BlogDH: How was the club started?

HV: The club was started when Kyle caught the slacklining bug. After spending a long time out slacklining on his own or with a few friends he started the club to share his lines and enthusiasm with the rest of campus. We’re glad he did!

BlogDH: How many members do you guys have? On a scale from curious freshman on the Main Green to Andy Lewis, what would you say the average skill level of a Brown Slacklining Club member is?

HV: We have about 15 members that I can count on seeing for most meetings. Some days last fall, we had over 80 people try it in one session. Everyone in the club basically starts out as a curious freshman — the majority of members just work on making it across the line. There’s a handful of people in the middle who try jumps and bounces of different sorts. And then of course there’s Kyle (if you’ve seen someone doing crazy spins bounces and flips on the main green it’s probably him). All in all, I think four club members have tried a flip of any sort, but that’s by no means normal for the majority.

BlogDH: What was it like to watch Melissa Bowe ’11 and Kyle Cackett MS’12 at the Gibbon Games?

HV: Awesome. It was crazy to see them competing against the world champion slackliners that we had watched videos of so often on YouTube — we were all a little star struck. Mel and Kyle both did spectacularly too, so that’s always nice. Mel beat the women’s world champion and Kyle competed against Andy (Lewis), no biggie.

BlogDH: Now that Andy Lewis has brought slacklining to a national audience, how are you dealing with your newfound celebrity status at Brown?

HV: We’re enjoying the new members and generally feeling full of ourselves: we were in the Super Bowl!

BlogDH: If you could don a toga and slackline alongside one famous historical/contemporary figure, who would you choose and why?

HV: Einstein. As an engineer, I’m partial to crazy science geniuses, I guess. Plus, I would love to see what his hair did on a slackline, the visual’s pretty great.

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