Anyone standing on a slackline for the first time experiences a small miracle. Your feet shake, your knees wobble and your head wants to control everything but can’t. Standing let alone walking on the thin belt made of synthetic fibres seem out of the question. “This is called a monosynaptic reflex”, explains Samuel Volery, who studied human movement sciences at ETH Zurich. It also happened to him at first, over 15 years ago, when slacklining was known mainly in the climbing scene. That’s where the sport originated. Climbers balanced on their equipment in Yosemite National Park to pass the time when the weather was bad. Slacklining has experienced a real boom in recent years. New disciplines were constantly being created and new records were constantly being set. Slacklines are stretched as far as possible (longlines) or over water (waterlines), used for tricks (tricklines) or installed at dizzying heights (highlines). 

Freestyling over the abyss  

Samuel Volery played a key role in shaping the sport – especially in the supreme discipline of highlining – and has set many world records. His most famous project was a 540-metre-long Alpine highline between two of the Churfirsten peaks. In 2019, he managed to cross a 1,900-metre-long highline without falling. As one of the world’s first freestylers on the highline, he has also invented numerous new tricks. “The combination of highline and freestyle is what fascinates me the most, even though I’m at my physical limit.” For him, as a 36-year-old, it’s the perfect freestyle sport. “I fall up to 50 times a session, which has no consequences because I’m well secured.” Falling into the void like that is a nightmare for most people, but pure life for him. “Deep down, I’ve always been a freestyle athlete”, says Volery. However, he only got into slacklining after tearing his cruciate ligament. He put up a slackline in the gym and trained his injured knee on it while holding on to a parallel bar. “The slackline had an incredible effect. My knee stabilised very quickly.”  

Use in sports medicine

Injuries such as torn ligaments or meniscus injuries have long been successfully treated with slacklines in gentle restorative therapies. They are also used for prevention and training purposes, for example, in skiing. “Slacklines are very good for improving our core stability, which means the torso muscles at the centre of our bodies”, explains Corinne Albani, Head of Physiotherapy at the St. Anna am Bahnhof clinic in Lucerne. “The more stable your core, the better you can control your arms and legs. This reduces the risk of falls and injuries.” A slackline works the body from head to toe. “The nervous system has to process the stimuli at lightning speed and control the muscles precisely in order to continually stabilise the body.” This trains our balance and improves our reactions. “Working with a slackline can also improve the leg axis – in other words, it ensures that the hips, pelvis and knees are aligned”, adds Albani. “As a result, your weight is more favourably distributed over the foot and knee joints, which leads to better posture and optimal force transmission.”

Spectacular feats over the Musenalp

If you want to experience the high art of slacklining in the region, the best place to go is the Musenalp area above Niederrickenbach. Samuel Volery can often be found there, together with the Stans highline crew. They set up as many as eight highlines in the spectacular Alpine surroundings and practice their tricks. Volery’s latest invention is the “reverse supersonic”. With this trick, he makes the slackline bounce (3 to 4 metres up and down), then lets himself fall, grabs it with his hands, does a backward roll as the slackline swings up and – ideally – lands back on his feet. “I fell 300 times before I mastered the trick”, he says with a laugh. He prefers to talk about tricks like these rather than his world records, which he mostly considers “challenges I set myself to prove that something is possible”. Despite his successes, Samuel Volery is a modest man who simply loves to play with gravity. 

Physische Ausgabe vom Magazin «hin und weg» – auch zum Abonnieren.

Dies ist ein Beitrag aus dem Magazin «hin und weg». Die gedruckte Version finden Sie an den Bahnhöfen Engelberg, Sarnen, Stans und Meiringen, in allen Reisezentren sowie auf dem Zug. Gerne senden wir Ihnen das Magazin auch nach Hause. Schicken Sie dazu eine Mail an mit dem Betreff «Magazin hin und weg abonnieren» und Ihrer Postadresse als Nachricht.