8 years. That’s how long it took Andy Lewis to work his way from slacklining novice to acrobat at the 2012 Super Bowl half-time show. While millions watching marveled at his unique skills and, for a moment, probably wondered “Wow, who’s that guy jumping around in the toga? Is that Will Ferrell? No? Who is that guy?”, Lewis was too much a backdrop to Madonna’s gyrations–a fleeting moment of cool not given his proper due as world record holder and pioneer.
No worries. We’re here to fill in the gaps about this very talented dude.
Lewis’s career is peppered with an impressive number of records and firsts. In 2008, he became the first ever slacklining world champion (holding onto his title in 2009, 2010, and 2011 competitions); he has been recognized as first across or “F/A” on nearly 100 highline routes and holds a world record for being the first person to free solo a 54m highline. As if all that wasn’t enough, Lewis also BASE jumps and rock climbs.
Myriad as his talents are, Lewis’s claim to fame is tricklining–a derivative of slacklining in which participants use the 1-inch wide nylon slacklining ribbon to perform tricks like spins and flips. Unlike a thin, highly-taut tightrope, the slackline provides added bounce and a bit of extra surface area so walkers can really get their fancy on. Lewis’s position as founder of this niche field has netted him sponsorships from Five-Ten Footwear and Gibbon Slacklines and earned him spots in films and on national and international TV. The peculiar thing about all this success: slacklining is not actually considered a real sport. So…what it is exactly? A hobby? Not quite.
In a 2010 interview, Andy explained the slacklining lifestyle or “slacklife”, a term he coined. In his words, “slacklife” describes “A concept adopted by slackliners who live a life consistently and continually inspired by slacklining.” Because there are no official rules, no magazines, no leagues, and numerous safety hurdles erected by society to thwart athletes looking to practice the little-known, dangerous pursuit, those who participate in slacklining or its offshoots (highlining, tricklining, longlining, free solo) are grounded by a commitment to a near-religious calling.
Lewis elaborates: “Living in the moment, being immersed in the wilderness, challenging your body, developing your mind, confronting, controlling, and conquering one’s fear of death, and the pure, true, and honest unbridled feeling of freedom to do what you want is foundation supporting the Slacklife.”
In sum, there’s a whole lot more to this than a half-time stunt. Recognize.
Cover Photo Credit: Michael Guntsche/ Flickr.com