On a calm September evening, senior sustainability major Nicholas Araya ventures out to the quad and unpacks his bag. Inside is a long trampoline-like band, which he secures between two trees. He begins to untie his shoes and hops onto the band. Taking his time, Araya gently balances himself as he walks back and forth.
This tightrope-like activity is called slacklining. For Araya, it has grown from a fascination to a hobby and a part of his everyday life.
“[Slacklining] is not just one thing,” Araya said. “It’s a combination of body, mind and spirit because all three are connected when you’re slacklining, and it really is in that deep sense.”
Araya’s fascination with slacklining began during his freshman year at Montclair State University.
One day, he was walking in the quad and spotted a student who appeared to be tightrope-walking. The student explained what he was doing and then allowed Araya to try it out. It was an unforgettable experience and only expanded his curiosity about slacklines.
“I hopped on and the next thing you know, my legs were wiggling and I was panicking, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, [slacklining] is harder than it seems,’” Araya said.
After Araya was exposed to slacklining for the first time, he started his sophomore year by buying his own equipment.
Since he first started, Araya has improved tremendously on his skills, fearlessly pacing back and forth with little hesitation, even trying to slackline in the rain. He enjoys the chance to get outside, exercise and relax in one activity.
“You need to focus on your breath, you need to find that connection with your body,” Araya said. “It’s a very meditative process. It really calms me down.”
He is also not afraid to invite others to try, too. He has given his friends a chance to test their own balancing skills and teach them the tricks of becoming a pro.
Earlier this semester, he invited his friend, junior theater studies major William Collins, to try out the slackline for the first time. Just like Araya, Collins admits that it is a lot harder than it looks, but he found it surprisingly relaxing to do on a Wednesday afternoon after a long day of classes.
Collins met Araya his sophomore year at Montclair State through the Japan Club. At the time, Collins was training to become treasurer of the club.
“I used to see him [slacklining] while walking around campus sometimes and then he brought it to the office,” Collins said. “It was just sitting here so we decided to go outside and try it.”
The day that Araya took him out to the quad, Collins got on the slackline and he could not believe his natural ability. He was impressed about how far he was able to make it on his first try. Collin does not think of slacklining as a hobby, but he would not mind going out every once in a while and trying to successfully make it across the entire way.
“I didn’t say I thought I couldn’t do it, but I was interested to try it out and seeing how far I could get,” Collins said. “I’m all for trying it again.”
Araya hopes to one day find a slackline long enough to stretch across the entire quad and challenge himself to make it across. He also wishes to take his hobby west to Pittsburgh and join a team of other slackliners. His dream is to be able to try slacklining in between two summits.
He also has his tips for beginners to help them make it across the slackline and many of them are basic reminders of how people should control their bodies. He mentioned that people should also take their time and focus on their breathing, as it is not a race.
Most importantly, Ararya wants anyone who tries slacklining to have fun.
“Don’t be afraid, if you see someone slacklining, just go up to them and ask if you can try,” Araya said. “You’re going to wobble a couple times, but it’s all about determination, persistence and [to] have fun with it.”