Ex­treme sport of slack­lin­ing gains a foothold in Iran de­spite lack of sup­port

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Ki­avash Shar­ifi can hardly de­scribe the feel­ing of tip-toe­ing across an abyss on a thin rib­bon of web­bing that bends ever so slightly down­ward.

The 22-year-old is one of a grow­ing num­ber of Ira­ni­ans em­brac­ing the ex­treme sport of slack­lin­ing — a high-wire walk on a flat line of web­bing strung be­tween rocks or trees up to 60 me­ters ( 65 yards) above the ground. The web­bing pro­vides slightly more sta­bil­ity than a round cord, but is also bouncier.

“It is very ex­cit­ing. I’m short on words when I want to de­scribe how it feels when you are on the web­bing, and how it feels when you man­age to walk the whole line and reach the other end,” Shar­ifi said. “When you are on the web­bing you don’t no­tice any­thing else.”

He’s part of “Iran Slack­line,” a group of friends who have had to find their own foot­ing in a coun­try with no for­mal in­sti­tu­tions for the sport. They must make much of their equip­ment by hand or ac­quire it abroad — in­clud­ing safety de­vices.

On a re­cent day the friends gath­ered in the moun­tains out­side Tehran, with the cap­i­tal sky­line serv­ing as a back­drop. They strung a 10-me­ter strip of web­bing be­tween two rocks 30 me­ters above ground.

At this point they are largely un­fazed by the dan­ger, and laughed and joked as they took turns inch­ing across. One of them placed his hands on the line and lifted him­self up with just his arms. Then he leaned back on the line as if us­ing it as a ham­mock.

“When I’m walk­ing on the highline I have a very good feel­ing. I feel free. I’m free from all pre­oc­cu­pa­tions and it is very en­joy- able,” said Mo­ham­mad Reza Abaee, at 23 the most ex­pe­ri­enced of the group. High­alti­tude slack­lin­ing is known as high­lin­ing.

Abaee, who was pre­vi­ously a rock climber, said he stum­bled upon the sport of slack­lin­ing on the In­ter­net. He and some friends then went into the coun­try­side and strung a rope be­tween two trees. By his sec­ond at­tempt, he had made it across.

At a rock climb­ing fes­ti­val in Iran in 2012, Abaee met a group of Euro­pean slack­lin­ers who gave him ad­vice and equip­ment. Now he has enough con­fi­dence to walk across a 15-me­ter line with­out even a safety har­ness.

AP

In this pic­ture taken Fri­day, May 22, Ira­nian slack­liner Ma­soud Chenaghloo, nick­named Don Dorigo, bal­ances on a slack­line an­chored be­tween two rocks for a prac­tice in the moun­tains over­look­ing Tehran.

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