It had been a hot couple of weeks for the Brisbane slacklining crew, so with Christmas approaching, we decided a trip down to Dalwood Falls was in order. Along for the ride was highline fashion expert Ugo Capozzoli, excuse-master Dan Rogers, “Miss persistent” Elissa Jack and highline virgin Basil Twisleton.
For those that haven’t been down, Dalwood is in northern NSW, about 2.5 hours drive south of Brisbane. A small waterfall feeds into a deep basin about 30m across surrounded mostly by 8-12m cliffs. A popular spot for cliff-jumping, the recent growth of highlining in South-East Queensland had resulted in a few trips there to date. The line we rigged was around 10m off the water and spanned the widest section.
Despite our best intentions to leave early and be rigged by 11, delays along the way meant it was more like 1 before we had our lines taped up. Dan got things started with a couple of ballsy efforts, though desisted early citing fatigue.
Basil Twisleton (and yes, that is his real name) followed with a fantastic effort for his first highline. He successfully managed the traditional though non-conventional sit-start before panicing and taking two steps entirely too fast, though was still able to catch the line on the fall. Elissa followed with some promising starts, but something clearly wasn’t right in her head as she was unable to translate great longlining progress to highline results.
Ugo then proceeded to demonstrate why the French are so admired for their fashion, half-donning a wetsuit under his harness and a pair of gardening gloves. This man had more than just style up his proverbial sleeves, however – it took only a couple of false starts before his form shone through and he picked up the first complete walk of the day.
After collecting a bunch of footage, I jumped on the line – and I’m sure glad nobody took up the camera in my place. A few shonky starts led to the most uncomfortable walking I’ve ever done. Things culminated in the middle of the line, when my concentration all but evaporated, my legs decided they’d done enough walking, resulting in me standing on the spot fighting increasingly bigger full-body wobbles for what seemed an eternity, before I took one of my least comfortable leash falls, including full-body inversion and the catastrophic failure of my boardies.
The day drew on, as days tend to. The sun came out and we retreated dynamically (read: cliff jumped) to the coolness of the water below. Elissa showed she has bigger proverbial testicles than all of us by hanging by her ankles from the line and taking a dive into the water. Ugo tweaked his shoulder with a poor line catch and decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. Dan and Basil jumped on for a few more attempts, and I experimented with running the leash around my body, rather than threw my legs – which went well, except for a particularly stupid turn where I accidentally wrapped one of my legs up and fell, resulting in a bit of rope burn. A learning experience to be sure!
As the day wore on, an idea I’d had for a while kept nagging at me. Why didn’t I want to try and solo this line? 8 year old kids were jumping off higher parts of this cliff than the line, and I’d just walked across the line several times without falling. I’d seen people solo it before, and Ugo was standing right next to me, despite the footage I’d seen of the seemingly least controlled solo fall into that water possible. I’ve made a pact with myself that I’ll never free-solo anything, but this it’s not real free soloing if it’s over water, right? Plus I’d been paying out Dan all afternoon about growing a pair and pushing himself through the fear barrier – I’d be awfully hypocritical if I didn’t push myself to do the same.
So I did it. I stripped off the harness and did my first deep-water solo – and it was amazing. I’ve never felt more calm on a line, or more in control. I managed to mount and walk the entire safe length of the line and turn before falling and catching the line. After remounting and walking back to the center, I decided it was time to take the jump. I’ve cliff jumped a grand total of once, and that was earlier that day. Despite this, I was surprised at how calm and relaxed I was going in to it. I was less scared of jumping off the line than jumping off the cliff, that’s for sure.
Even half way through the fall, when I realized things were not going according to plan, I was calm. My stomach didn’t cramp like it normally does, and I had the presence of mind to take a deep breath and try to get through a full 180 degrees of rotation. I’m not saying it was a perfect dive – far from it (I hit my groin hard, and I’ve got an ice pack on it as I write this), but given how terrified I normally am doing something like this, I found it incredibly surreal.
Overall, despite a couple of minor wounds, it was a super fun day out. I’m looking forward to heading back out there before the end of summer and rigging a few lines with a bigger crew. Post below, on the forums or on the Slackline Brisbane facebook group if you’re keen to join us down there!
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