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City Weekend

Tightropes over Lion Rock and other balancing acts – slacklining is growing in popularity in Hong Kong

The popular sport of slacklining is gaining traction in the city, from Central pier to Lion Rock

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 May, 2017, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 June, 2017, 11:06am

You may have been lucky enough to see them carefully walking along tightropes connecting rocky hills in Hong Kong’s New Territories, or just enjoyed watching their enthralling videos online.

Daredevils in the Slacklining Hong Kong group, whose sport evolved from rock climbing in Yosemite Valley, California, during the 1970s, are fast making a name for themselves as the most exciting sporting club in the city. Their recent riveting stunt on Hong Kong’s iconic Lion Rock earned them fans across the world after video footage was shared online.

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But members of the group, which is a subgroup of extreme sports network Project X on social networking app Meet Up, are far from amateurs, having become experienced rock climbers before attempting their tightrope activities.

Watch: Hong Kong slackliners’ Lion Rock stunt

Ricardo Iriarte, 39, a freelance translator and interpreter from Mexico, joined the group more than four years ago. He said he was introduced to the sport by a friend after years of rock climbing.

“It is just fun,” he said. “But if you do slacklining and dedicate yourself to it, it becomes a major challenge. You can do tricks, like bouncing on the rope on your bum or your chest.”

Iriarte said similar sports, like long lining and high lining, were even more challenging, but he was becoming more advanced at those sports too.

He said his group was a friendly mix of locals and foreigners.

“It is a nice group,” he said. “It is full of like-minded people. It is good to do this kind of sport together, even though you can do it on your own, which can get boring easily. You can partake in the overall experience together.”

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Slacklining is similar to tightrope walking, with participants treading along a flat rope suspended between two anchors, like trees or poles, at a relatively low height, while long lining requires that you walk along a rope of about 100 feet in length. High lining requires that you perform your tightrope stunt at a great height.

Slyvia Lim, a 31-year-old interpreter, said she found the slacklining group through Meet Up and had been developing her skills in the sport since March 2015.

“It gives me something other sports don’t give me,” she said.

“And in this group, we don’t care about your background, whether you are a lawyer, doctor, teacher... it is very multicultural”.

They train on Tuesday evenings each week between piers 9 and 10 in Central, in a group of about 20 to 30 people. The practice, which is free if you bring your own ropes and requires a HK$20 donation to the Changing Lives charity if you don’t, allows participants to develop their skills in a controlled environment, before venturing out to more rural locations.

It is such an inclusive sport
Jonathan Ma, international school teacher

Despite largely welcoming the increasing interest in their activities, Slacklining Hong Kong remains concerned their stunt may be considered dangerous by some. But one of its core members, 34-year-old international school teacher Jonathan Ma, said they always used one base line rope and extremely strong carabiner shackles, which were highly unlikely to break.

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He said the club was suitable for people of all fitness levels. “It is such an inclusive sport,” he said. “I would not say that you even have to be particularly sporty to try it.”

Group members were also concerned that the authorities increasingly appear to be taking steps to limit their activities, such as by destroying the anchors they bury into rocks to attach their ropes. Despite this, Lim said she was confident that they could help any beginners overcome any safety concerns.

“Accidents happen but we will always help new people to get on the basic line,” she said. “Until they really know how to walk and keep their balance, we won’t let them try more adventurous lines.”