Safe and friendly atmosphere of slacklining group makes it worth trying

Photo+courtesy+of+Micah+Carroll%0AWALK+DOWN+THE+LINE%E2%80%94Each+week+outside+of+the+Berry+Events+Center%2C+you%E2%80%99ll+find+the+South+Superior+Climbing+Club%E2%80%99s+slacklining+group.+For+beginners+to+experts%2C+slacklining+is+available+for+everyone.%0A

Photo courtesy of Micah Carroll WALK DOWN THE LINE—Each week outside of the Berry Events Center, you’ll find the South Superior Climbing Club’s slacklining group. For beginners to experts, slacklining is available for everyone.

Travis Nelson

From tree to tree on Wednesday nights, hang slacklines of the South Superior Climbing Club. Despite difficult times, the group provides an experience to get outdoors and make new friends.

South Superior Climbing Club is the rock climbing club on campus, and offers climbing and slackling related events, club president junior public pelations major Micah Carroll said. The club thought that slacklining would be a great way to build community while they can keep their distance during this crazy time, Carroll said.

“South Superior Climbing Club fosters a safe and inclusive environment for anyone who’s interested and looking to get into the sport of rock climbing,” Carroll said. “There’s lots of opportunities to climb rocks in the U.P., we have lots of rock, and we’re here to help bridge the gap between students who maybe have climbed in a gym before and are looking to climb outside where our resource is as students.”

Slacklining is a sport that uses webbing suspended between two anchors, typically in trees, Carroll said. Participants practice balance walking between the two trees, and it ranges in heights depending on skill level. It’s a great way to engage both your mind and body as a  physical and mental challenge, Caroll said.

The gatherings for slacklining started in June as unofficial, and many people reached out to Carroll personally wanting to learn how to slackline, he said. After starting with a group of nearly 20 people, and now up to a core group of 40 participants, the slacklining group is in full swing. In ages ranging from six years old to 70-years-old, the whole community has been involved.

“I feel so fulfilled, I’ve had a number of first-year students at Northern who’ve come up to me personally and have said, ‘thank you so much for creating this space’, ‘I have met all my friends from slacklining gatherings’, I hear things like that,” Carroll said. “College is a really hard time, college during a pandemic is so hard if you’re a new student at school, so to be able to offer this space to students who’re new has given me a lot of joy in this time where joy is kind of hard to find sometimes.”

For slacklines that are higher in the air for advanced participants, there are crash pads beneath them that are used in a similar climbing sport of bouldering, Carroll said. Overall, it’s safe to slackline in a park like the group does, but what isn’t safe in the world right now is COVID-19. However, this isn’t a problem either for the group, as the South Superior Climbing Rock takes precautions seriously, and the participants do too.

“Everyone is really down to comply with all university regulations as it relates to COVID-19 protocol, so I’ve been very impressed with the student body. Everyone wears a mask, no one takes it off, everyone stays six feet apart, everyone’s using hand sanitizer, and everyone signs in,” Carroll said. “It’s giving me a lot of hope to see students contribute to a community that’s new while keeping a distance, and that’s super difficult, but everyone’s doing a great job. I’m very pleased with everyone.”

Freshman outdoor rec/leadership management major Natalie White found out on Instagram about the gatherings over the summer, but being from Grosse Pointe, she had to wait until class began. After finding out that the gatherings were carrying over into the fall, White decided to go and hasn’t looked back.

“At first it was extremely intimidating walking up, I decided to come by myself because it was the second week and I hadn’t really met a lot of people,” White said. “But then, I walked up to one of the slacklines and it was one of the lowest ones, and I saw someone that I thought I knew from one of my Zoom classes. It was a fun experience, but at first, it was really scary.”

Meeting new friends is a staple of this slacklining group, and the social atmosphere makes it easier to hop on a slackline once you’re there. The friendly experience is no joke, as it’s something White believes in too.

“I do a lot, I met these two people who’re super, duper cool there and they were very friendly and we just talked and slacklined,” White said. “I also brought some of my friends that I met in class, and I told them about and they started going. It’s a good way to make new friends.”

The time that you can meet new friends is every Wednesday at 7 p.m. where the group meets outside of the Berry Events Center, Carroll said. The South Superior Climbing Club posts updates in the Facebook group under the same name, and also on the event website for NMU student organizations, The Hub. However, as the days get shorter, they anticipate the time moving up to 6:30 p.m., Carroll said. Carroll thinks it’s so important to be around people outside in a safe way, and that every Wednesday night, he has an opportunity for you.

“I would say that if you come, you’re going to leave with something,” Carroll said. “One of those things you’re going to leave with is a new friend, a community that we have is so beautiful, everyone is just incredible and really intentional with their time to build relationships with others and to give each other human connection which is kind of hard to find sometimes in this time in society.”

For students or community members questioning themselves whether they should go or not, White as a freshman student is saying it’s worth it.

“Although I understand why people would be intimidated by it because obviously it’s a new activity and there’s a lot of people there who’re good at it, and I also felt the same way. I would also say that people are just there to have fun, to meet new people and to reconnect with old friends,” White said. “If you want to come, you should just come because it’s a super, duper fun experience with good energy and you’ll definitely want to come back after the first time you go.”

For more information, head to the South Superior Climbing Club page on Facebook, or NMU’s The Hub.