Slackline vs Tightrope Walking

Someone getting into the sport might be wondering what the big difference is between slackline vs tightrope walking.

After all, you’ve spent your entire life resisting the temptation to run off and join the circus.

What’s so special about slacklining that should encourage you to start doing it right now?

Slackline vs Tightrope

Slacklines don’t use stabilization wires and tightropes do. Slacklines webbing is made from flat and stretchy material, but tightropes are usually made from round steel. Slacklines sag and tightropes don’t have much give. Slackliners use their hands and tightrope walkers use a pole.

That’s basically a quick list of the main differences you’ll see between slacklining and tightrope walking, but you might not be able to picture the difference in your head. Let’s break each one down into more detail to show what goes on when slackline vs tightrope walking:

  • Tightropes use stabilization wires
  • Slackline webbing is bouncy
  • Tightropes don’t have much sag
  • Slackliners don’t use long poles
  • Tightrope walkers don’t wear leashes
  • Slacklines are lower to the ground
  • Slacklines only come in two sizes

Tightropes use stabilization wires – When you look at tightropes you’ll notice they’re not just held in place at either end. Stabilization wires will be located sporadically along the tightrope. The exact amount used will depend on how long the line is because it needs to be held in position.

Slacklines are the exact opposite because they’re only connected at two anchor points. Longer slacklines can sway drastically from side to side. In fact, there are tricks you wouldn’t be able to do if the slackline didn’t swing from side to side which I’m sure you’ll want to test out.

Slackline webbing is bouncy – When you jump on a tightrope it’s not going to move much. It doesn’t mean tightrope walkers won’t be able to do tricks. You’ll be able to see professionals doing huge backflips and front flips. It’s because they’re usually made from steel.

Most traditional tightropes will be made from steel (or have a steel core), which is why you won’t be able to bounce on them. But it’s important to note they do come in different materials so don’t be surprised if you see rope in certain situations.

Slacklines are so bouncy you’ll be able to fly into the air on any of them when there is enough tension. Trickline slacklines are actually made from material that feels like you’re bouncing on a trampoline. If you can reach higher heights you’ll be able to do cooler tricks up there.

On slacklines, a lot of the good stuff usually happens when your feet aren’t touching the line. On tightropes it’s the opposite. Have you ever seen anyone cycling across one?

Tightropes don’t have much sag – Due to the fact tightropes are made of steel they don’t have much sag. Or they shouldn’t if they’re set up right. Tightropes can sag a little under their own weight, but it’s only a mini arc. Anything more and certain tricks wouldn’t be possible on it.

When you’re setting up a slackline it’s going to depend on the specific type you’re using when it comes to how much it sags:

  • Normal slacklines
  • Trickline slacklines

Normal slacklines – The average slackline set up at the park is going to have some sag. Especially if you’re using a 100 foot long slackline. When using highline slacklines the sag could be massive. But it’s just part of the sport and everyone accepts the extra challenge.

Trickline slacklines – Tricklines are designed to have a lot more tension thanks to the ratchet system used to tighten it. They’re only tightened so much because it’s easier to bounce higher up in the air. Tricklines also have a grippy surface which you won’t find on a tightrope.

Slackliners don’t use long poles – I suppose slackliners could use poles if they wanted one, and tightrope walkers could walk across a tightrope without a pole. But if you were carrying a pole while slacklining you wouldn’t be able to do a number of different things:

  • Tricks
  • Yoga
  • Surfing

Most tightrope walkers you see will be carrying something in their hands to help keep their balance. Here are a few of the common balancing tools tightrope walkers are known to use:

  • Balance poles
  • Umbrella
  • Fan

Tightrope walkers don’t wear leashes – One of the biggest differences between funambulism (tightrope walking) and slacklining is what people are trying to do. If you asked everyone who practised either one why they did it they would probably say something like:

Tightrope walking = taking risks + entertaining
Slacklining = having fun + competing in sport

So tightrope walkers don’t want to wear a leash or harness attached to a wire. They’re trying to shock the crowd because one wrong move and they could plummet to the ground in seconds. If they were safely attached to the tightrope would anyone be interested in watching them?

When Philippe Petit walked between the Twin Towers in 1974 he wanted to be known as the ultimate daredevil.

Slackliners will walk huge distances on a highline at great heights, but they’re doing so because it’s a fun challenge. The goal is to see if they have the skills required to do it, so it’s not worth risking your life. That’s why slackliners will be attached to slacklines above a certain height.

Slacklines are lower to the ground – Highlining is a popular sport among thrillseekers, but the majority of people who use the best slackline for beginners do it close to the ground. Beginners are just trying to challenge themselves by walking across a slackline without falling off.

More advanced slackliners might start to throw tricks and yoga into the equation, but there is no need to go any higher.

Funambulists don’t want to walk along a tightrope that’s almost touching the ground. Of course they use such setups because nobody in their right mind would take great risks while practicing, but once practice time is over everything will happen in the sky.

Slacklines only come in two sizes – If you want to buy a slackline you’ll find them in two sizes (width) you’ll need to choose between. They normally come in two specific lengths too. Here is a breakdown of the different options you’ll have available to you:

1 inch slacklines vs 2 inch slacklines
50 foot slacklines vs 100 foot slacklines

Tightropes are round and don’t come with any diameter as standard, but they are pretty thin. Tightrope walkers usually wear thin and flexible shoes to help them grip the line as tightly as possible.

Slacklining vs Tightrope Walking Styles

Slacklining and tightrope walking don’t just involve walking from one side of the line to the other. At least not once you’ve built up the skills to get from A to B without falling. There are specific styles everyone enjoys and we’ll look at some of the highly recognized ones:

Slacklining Styles

  • Tricklining
  • Waterlining
  • Highlining
  • Windlining
  • Rodeo slacklining
  • Slackline yoga

Tricklining – I know we’ve mentioned it a few times but tricklining is just slacklining + tricks. You use a trampoline wire and create more tension in the line. Anyone who loves acrobatics will love the best slackline for tricks.

Waterlining – Would you like to get better at slackline tricks without risking serious injury? Waterlining is just slacklining over a body of water, which is actually much more exciting than it sounds.

Highlining – The real excitement comes when you’re highlining well above the ground. After tricklining it’s the ultimate way to get an adrenaline rush. If you find a great location it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Windlining – Wind slacklining is just an extreme form of highlining because you’ll usually be up high. It’s slacklining in winds so strong it will feel like you’re walking in a circle and you’ll need much more balance.

Rodeo slacklining – Freestyle slacklining requires you to use a line with almost no tension. The slackline will swing around like crazy and you’ll need an extraordinary amount of skill to stay on the line for long durations.

Slackline yoga – Slackline yoga is exactly as it sounds. It’s combining yoga and slacklining. Performing yoga moves on 2 inch wide webbing is a lot more difficult than it sounds and it’s a tremendous core workout.

Tightrope Walking Styles

Tightrope walking has much fewer styles. It’s never really been popular because it’s not as accessible to newcomers. Tightwire is walking between A and B. Highwire is just tightwire once you go higher than 20 feet. Here are a couple of styles people will recognize:

  • Circus tricks
  • Skywalk
  • Jultagi

Circus tricks – You can cycle across highwires and push people in a wheelbarrow. Juggling clubs and rings is pretty cool. Some tightrope walkers will bring fire into their act. You can incorporate ladders, animals, and a huge amount of other props into the style.

Skywalk – A skywalk is just highwire at scary heights. Like someone walking between two buildings. It should be as high as possible and as long as possible. For example, walking a quarter mile across a canyon 1,500 feet high without a harness or net to save you in an emergency.

Jultagi – Anyone interested in Korean culture might know what Jultagi is. It’s basically someone carrying out a performance while tightrope walking, which usually includes music and telling a story. Some of the tricks are impressive although it’s not performed high up in the air.

How To Set Up Slackline Anywhere

Do you know how much work goes into setting up a 100 foot ¾ inch steel cable? You’ll need lots of extra equipment and it will take a huge amount of work. The ability to set up slacklines anywhere is a huge difference. Here are some of the places you’ll be able to set one up:

  • Mountain gorges
  • Swimming pools
  • Trees
  • Metal frames
  • Buildings
  • Urban obstacles

You’ll basically be able to put one up in between any two sturdy points no matter where you are. All you need is a ratchet tensioning system and your slackline can be set up in minutes. Highlines will obviously be a lot more difficult but it’s still possible to do in a short amount of time.

Slacklining vs Tightrope Walking Records

It’s pointless getting into specific world records because it feels like they’re being broken all the time. We’re just going to give you an idea how far you’ll be able to walk on a slackline vs tightrope. Here are a couple of records that have been achieved in the recent past:

Slacklining = 5,453 feet (1,115 feet high)
Tightrope Walking = 1,560 feet (10 stories high and no net)

Someone has actually walked 2.8 kilometers on a slackline, but they fell a few hundred meters from the end so it doesn’t count. Even though they were secured to the slackline it’s hard to imagine. Can you picture how much sag there must have been in the middle of the line?

Slackline vs Tightrope Walking: Final Thoughts

Tightrope walking is probably harder because you’ll have more problems around your center of gravity. But slacklining is much more enjoyable no matter what style you use, unless you join the circus of course. It’s also easy to get a slackline and get started straight away.

It’s one of the most enjoyable sports in the world, which will only grow in popularity over the years. Tightrope walking seems like something your grandparents would be more interested in. Do you think you’ve got the skills to excel at slacklining or tightrope walking?