Spring 2011

[Alumni News]

Andy Lewis

Livin' the Slacklife

Andy Lewis takes a self-portrait as he walks a one-inch wide slackline overlooking Upper Yosemite Falls at 3,000 feet up. (Photo courtesy of Andy Lewis)

NOT MANY PEOPLE CONSIDER walking over a waterfall on a one-inch-wide strap of nylon webbing at 150 feet up. But the sport known as “slacklining” has been growing in popularity recently. And for Andy Lewis (‘08, Recreation Administration), it’s more than just a sport—it’s a way of life.

Lewis, who has been slacklining since 2004, is arguably the world’s foremost male slackliner. Whether his rig is set up low to the ground for “tricklining,” or hundreds of feet in the air for “highlining,” Lewis is constantly testing his limits.

“It feels really awesome, doing what you didn’t think you could,” Lewis says. “When you get to the end of the line there’s a feeling of almost enlightenment. It wipes away your stresses. You feel free.”

Although Lewis was already an accomplished slackliner before he came to HSU, having already landed a balanced backflip on the line, being among the redwoods helped him bring his skills to new heights.

“I read the book “The Wild Trees” about HSU professor Stephen Sillett. It had a huge impact,” Lewis says. Sillett has climbed the world’s tallest trees as part of his groundbreaking research.

Currently, Lewis holds the world record for longest highline walk at 340 feet long and 360 feet up.

“To a normal person, it would be terrifying, but to us it’s just normal,” Lewis says. “Fear is a natural response, and normally it’s good for you. But when you’re highlining you’ve got to tell your brain to shut up.”

For Lewis and his friends, looking at the world in terms of slacklining is something they can’t just turn off.

“There is this lifestyle that goes along with slacklining and we’ve started calling it slacklife,” Lewis says. “We’re redefining what’s possible. That’s definitely part of slacklife. Redefining what’s possible for yourself.”

And the slacklife is catching on.

“It’s really a global sport now,” Lewis says. “You get people from all walks of life: ballet, break dancing, gymnastics. And now it’s all being done on the slackline. It’s evolving into a sport that I think will end up in the X-Games and the Olympics. I want to spend my life helping to make this a sport that will go on for generations.”