WALK'IN THE LINE

February 13, 2004 12:00 am
LEFT: EQUILIBRIUMTEST: Jesse Dwyer, director of Eastern Oregon University's outdoor program, demonstrates how to walk on a slack line.RIGHT: SKILL DEVELOPMENT: Eastern Oregon University student Julie Rea tests her balance during during a slack line class. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).
LEFT: EQUILIBRIUMTEST: Jesse Dwyer, director of Eastern Oregon University's outdoor program, demonstrates how to walk on a slack line.RIGHT: SKILL DEVELOPMENT: Eastern Oregon University student Julie Rea tests her balance during during a slack line class. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Jesse Dwyer is not a tight-rope walker or a gymnast, but he appears to be both each Tuesday at Eastern Oregon University.

Dwyer, the director of Eastern's Outdoor Program, teaches a slack-lining class each Tuesday at Quinn Coliseum. Slack-lining is a sport in which people walk across a line of 2- to 3-inch wide nylon webbing that is several feet above the floor or ground.

Dwyer, swaying in the air, can easily walk the length of his 25-foot line. He looks as if he is walking across a hanging foot bridge or string of hammocks. Beginners though will struggle at first.

"It has a steep learning curve. ... It is like juggling. It seems very hard, then people get it instantly,'' Dwyer said.

The EOU student has been slack-lining for several years. He said it is an excellent means of improving skills needed for rock climbing.

"It strengthens connective tissue, helps your balance and improves your ability to react,'' Dwyer said.

Slack-lining was first developed by rock climbers 10-20 years ago. Today it is a favorite avocation of many climbers during down time.

"People like to do it at rock climbing camps,'' Dwyer said.

The longest slack line that anyone has ever walked across without falling, Dwyer said, is about 160 feet.

A slack line is much different than a tight rope because it is much more flexible. A tight rope is tight and solid.

"(A tight rope) is stretched so tight it will not swing,'' Dwyer said.

Anyone can learn to walk a slack line, but those who are involved in activities that require balance and flexibility pick it up faster.

"People who are good at yoga or skiing do it well,'' the Program director said.

Relaxation is an important element of slack-lining. Those who relax fare much better.

Dwyer first taught slack lining sessions at rock climbing classes he instructs at EOU. It proved so popular that he decided to offer separate slack lining sessions.

The class Dwyer teaches is offered at EOU's climbing wall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Tuesday.

Eastern students who have attended the sessions include Julie Rea, a member of EOU's Outdoor Program.

"It is fun and frustrating,'' Rea said.

The slack line Dwyer sets up is 2-3 feet off the ground and is over thick mats. Dwyer discourages people from setting up their own slack lines and then walking on them in an unsupervised setting.

"It can be dangerous,'' he said. "You can get hurt.''

For information on the slack-lining sessions call the Outdoor Program, 962-3621.