Over the past few months local residents may have noticed a group of people off Black Oak Mine Road in Garden Valley literally climbing through the trees. The Balance Community Backyard Highline Festival is the brainstorm and work of Jerry Miszewski, 25, of Davis.
“I started Balance Community in August of 2009,” he said. “That was my first venture into business.”
Miszewski and others, primarily young people, have taken up the sport of slacklining. Although it could be recognized as tightrope walking, the two sports are completely different.
“A tightrope is characterized by a rigid steel cable that is not able to move because of guylines holding it in place,” said Miszewski, whose business is designing and selling the slackline equipment. “A slackline is a piece of 1-inch wide webbing made from nylon or polyester, which is free to move while you are walking on it. This enables dynamic movements that are not possible on a rigid tightrope.”
A math major from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Miszewski said he got into the sport approximately four and a half years ago through a rock-climbing friend.
“I was instantly hooked,” he said. “It is actually an off-shoot sport of rock climbing. Our festival just started in September, where we first held it at Chris’ house (on Black Oak Mine Road). The festival itself was originally planned to run every full moon, which we will try to uphold into 2012. (In November the community was focused on festivals in other parts of the country.) Chris is a fantastic slackliner himself and has done a lot of work to his property to house this festival.”
Chris Rigby rents the Garden Valley property where the Balance Community Backyard Highline Festival takes place. He has been doing the sport for approximately seven years and said it is popular on college campuses. The highest line at the event is 50 feet off the ground, but Miszewski said in Yosemite lines could be as high as 3,000 feet.
The Garden Valley location draws approximately 30-40 slackline walkers from a 200-mile radius, according to Miszewski, who uses his degree in math with physics to design and develop the slackline equipment, which he primarily sells through the Internet.
Miszewski’s wife, Susan, is a doctoral student at UC Davis.
While appearing to be a liability nightmare, Miszewski reassures that the property owner, renter and visitor are protected by signing waivers. Interested residents are encouraged to stop by and take a look or even have a try on the slackline.
“It’s extremely safe,” said Miszewski, who has traveled to Europe, Yosemite and Moab for similar types of events. “I have progressed to the professional level over the last few years; now I support my hobby fulltime through Balance Community.”
The Balance Community Backyard Highline Festival is a small gathering of like-minded people having fun. Many of those attending also are interested in similar types of activities such as skydiving and acroyoga.
“It’s a lot of fun to have a big community come together with common interests,” said Miszewski, who gets invited to events around the world, sells his equipment and often gets his travel expenses paid.
More information on Balance Community and the sport of slackline walking is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.