GoPro Games Slacklining: Walk (or Backflip) the Line

June 26, 2015

by Emelie Frojen
GoPro Games Slacklining: Walk (or Backflip) the Line

“Competition” and “slacking” rarely go together. Not today, as slacklining’s roped in competitors from Vail to Tokyo.

Competitive slacklining focuses on free-flowing aerobatic twists, flips, and tricks on an elevated strap of nylon webbing. At the June GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, pros threw park skier-style maneuvers in front of a bursting Colorado crowd.

The judges award scores based on three categories: Trick Difficulty/ Technique, Trick Diversity/Creativity and Trick Amplitude.  Similarly to competitive diving, every trick is assigned a point value. A variety of difficult tricks garners high scores. On the other end of the line, repeated tricks yield deductions.

At first, slacklining competitions pitted athletes against each other in one-on-one duels. The bracket format tended to eliminate some of the more talented athletes early and diluted the finals. Now, each athlete gets two 60-second runs and the judges consider all of the athletes’ best scores before making final round cuts.  To this point (the 2015 Games were one of the first few times athletes competed under the new format), it appears that athletes and spectators alike agree on the format’s stoke-provoking results.

The Vail fans surrounded the line, relaxing on the ground, in the stands or on the terrace above. The athletes appeared unfazed by the outsized crowd, compelled by lighthearted one-upmanship rather than serious competition. 

Among the crowd favorites was 22-year old Estonian Tauri Vahesaar, originator of the 'Estonian Backflip.'

"I started competing because I was good," said Vahesaar bluntly. Miles past good, Vahesaar is a natural, now a top competitor after starting the sport only two years ago.

Competition judge and fellow slackliner, Josh Beaudoin, values self-expression and creativity, "Being active helps you express things you can't speak," says Beaudoin. After slacklining debuted at the XGames this year, Beaudoin feels this sport will go far; “I see slacklining going to the Olympics."

Freed from brackets, there is no point ceiling for motivated competitors. The 2015 GoPro Mountain Games saw Vahesaar set a world record and walk away with $4,000.

In the finals, friendship trumped winning. Vahessar helped competitor Alex Mason up from a rough fall. During Kota and JP's round, Kota pumped the crowd up for JP while he was still on the line. “These guys just want to have fun and express themselves in front of the crowd. That’s all that matters," summarized Beaudoin.

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