Slacklining in Brazil: Rockclimbers’ Sport Popular on Rio Beaches

On the beaches of Rio, there are all kinds of sports: Soccer, skateboarding, and surfing to name a few. But then, there’s the remarkable sight between the palm trees, figures bouncing and balancing in the sun on a rope, stretched a few feet off the ground.

It’s called slacklining, and it’s hugely popular across Brazil. Jose Helu started slacklining four years ago, and now he teaches classes.

“During the summer, you know, everybody wants to be in good shape. And slacklining makes you be in good shape,” he said. “You work out all your body. Your legs, your chest and also your mind.”

But slacklining got its start a long way from Brazil’s beaches. It’s said to have been created in the 70’s by American rock climbers on the west coast. The gear involved is minimal — a length of webbing stretched between two supports. The challenge is that it’s more flexible than a tightrope, making the line stretch and sway.

Today, there are companies that make and market the gear, and there’s even an annual World Cup competition. The most talented slackliners can perform flips, jumps and spins, while landing on the line and retaining their balance.

Fusion’s Pedro Andrade took a lesson on Ipanema Beach and discovered that slacklining is fun… and a whole lot harder than it looks.

Credit: Pedro Andrade, Bradley Blackburn, Joanna Suarez and Walter Collins