the slAck-B-C of Brazil
Every story has a beginning, and this one is no different. On his extended tour of South America, slackliner Lukas Irmler hung his lines higher and more spectacularly than ever before. We got to the roots of this trip. From b to z. Because a was at the beginning.
192 million inhabitants, the world’s fifth-largest country. Home of carnival, the rainforest, the Amazon, passion and emotion. An emerging economy, a land with many faces, a diverse and handsome society. Now a hotspot for the international slackline community. See g for more.
CV or résumé. Some CVs focus on academic achievements. Some on records. Some on both. Lukas Irmler has a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, for example. He also holds multiple records in slacklining
Were we just talking about records? Yes, we were. Lukas admits that “you’ve got to be slightly crazy”. Although, without this craziness, without being driven, you are never going to meet the challenge.
Setting up slacklines is not difficult, unlike highlines. Setting up a highline takes a great deal of experience and know-how, as well as the right equipment. Lukas could rely on Gustavo Fontes and Caio Salomão AFeto, two slackline aficionados with all the equipment they needed in their backpacks.
Informal settlements on the outskirts of large cities are called favelas, which really means “slums”. Highlining near one of these favelas full of little huts and hovels clearly underlined the social differences that coexist here with a view of the dream beach resort of Ipanema in the background.
Every sport has its holy places to which pilgrimages need to be made. The ultimate to-do list of any serious slacker should include Lost Arrow in Yosemite, the Redrocks in Moab, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and at the top of the list: Pedra da Gávea.
Highlines can be hundreds of metres up in the sky and hundreds of metres long. Free solo means walking these lines without any kind of safety protection – the top end of the business. In 2012 Lukas joined the exclusive 100+ club by walking the 103-metre Kundipan line in the Czech Republic.
“Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.” The hit by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto made the beach of Ipanema world-famous. The local slacklining community meets here and it’s an ideal spot to meet new slackers and hang out.
Jesus! What a view, what a statue! “Christ the Redeemer” is the famous statue above Rio, and naturally became part of the cultural itinerary for the crew. “An amazing view across the whole city and Rio’s surroundings,” raved Lukas.
The kilonewton (1,000 newtons) - the standard unit of force in the construction industry - corresponds roughly to the weight that acts on a mass of 100 kilogrammes. For some highlines a tensioning force of up to 15 kN is needed, i.e. 1,500 tons. This means you could easily suspend a mid-range car from it.
Longlines are slacklines that have an especially long span. A longline means that it exceeds a span of 30 metres. What if a slackline is exactly 425 metres long? Then it's the European record longline walked by Lukas Irmler in 2013. No surprise, then, that a high-longline was on the cards in Brazil.
The man. Half man. Full man. In slackline speak, a full man means walking there and back. Walking one way doesn’t mean you can make it back due to changes in tension and differences in wind. But not for the full men. They turn round and walk back again. Full man!
If you install a new line and walk it successfully, then you can give it its name. “No rest for the legends” is the name of South America’s longest highline. Lukas walked it first. Full man, there and back. No time to rest. “Legendary” sums up both the location and the dimensions.
Order is important. Especially on trips. Trips have this tendency to deteriorate into chaos. Stuff needs to be organised: your equipment, your flight tickets, your lines, your reports. Why? Because the highlight is still to come.
A park is a landscaped grassy area designed to provide aesthetics and recreation. A national park can also provide aesthetics and recreation. Like the popular Serra do Cipó National Park in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, for example, where the crew visited the famous waterfalls.
A quba is a breed of horse from Azerbaijan widely used as a working horse, or for riding. Qubas are tough, stocky horses. Did Lukas and his crew ride qubas, or another half-breed of horse in Brazil? We do not know. But they relied on horses to reach the Tabuleiro Waterfall.
Lukas' Slack Cruisers are equipped with STEALTH rubber. Developed by the climbing-shoe company Five Ten, Stealth turned out to be the best rubber that had ever come into contact with rock. What proved to deliver the ultimate rock climbing grip also came to benefit the slack community.
Samba dancing is pure enjoyment, having fun with movement, colourful, authentic and intensive. Just like the adidas CC Boat Samba collection, which has excelled in the most incredible test of any dance space: a samba on highlines at the heart of Brazil.
Originally, the plan was to do two highlines, but having checked out both of them, Lukas reckoned there was another possible line right above the waterfall. The successful completion of the triple was a highlight of the trip, especially because the longest of the three lines was a daunting 90 metres.
Lukas walking the 90-metre highline was simply unbelievable. “I focused on the end of the line and started moving faster to cover the last few metres. I jumped the last two metres and managed to land on the protruding rock. Unbelievable!”
There and back? The full man? (See m) That is very unbelievable. Lukas says: “When I stepped back onto the 90-metre band the first few metres were a real struggle with a mass of flaying arms but then it went amazingly well. Only at the end did I start to notice how tired my arms actually were."
The Tabuleiro Waterfall is the third-highest waterfall in Brazil and an ideal spot for highlining. The water crashes straight down 270 metres; a breathtaking location, a place for special deeds and special emotions.
The Portuguese word for romance. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and xácara hits the nail on the head regarding the crew’s feelings towards this incredible country.
Yeah! Half the village was waiting for Lukas when he walked the 90-metre highline. Yeah! The longest highline on the continent had been walked at one of the most beautiful spots in Brazil. Triple yeah!
Everybody has to return at some point. Lukas had achieved something unbelievable. Nevertheless, he zoomed out from Rio, via Paris, back to home. He is certain that, at some point, he will return.