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The Siwash Rock Highline in Stanley Park

Overlooking the English Bay tankers, and a picturesque sunset beyond, three Vancouver-based slackliners strung up and walked a line between Siwash Rock and the cliff above Stanley Park’s Seawall.

Spencer Seabrooke
Siwash Rock highlining in Stanley Park. Photo Alexandra Anderson

By Drew Copeland

Many people traveling on the path beneath were curious about the feat and stopped to observe and take photos. The three slackliners are part of a group called Slacklife B.C. who put up slacklines throughout Vancouver and the Sea-to-Sky, host events and generally promote the slackline community.

Unfortunately, the media attention on the Siwash Rock highline has been focused on the controversial side of things: a violation of park board rules and the potential hazards—paying less attention to the positive aspects. The slackliners point out that the overwhelming majority of observers were quite interested in the April 14 slackline and that they received quiries from journalists as far afield as Quebec City.

Malcolm Bromley, general manager of Vancouver Parks and Recreation, said in an interview with CTV, “We want people to understand that this isn’t just a harmless stunt, we’re concerned about their safety, the safety of the public, and also about the protection of cultural areas.”

Adam Mertens, one of the Siwash Rock slackliners says, “The story that was portrayed by the media, I’m not saying it’s inaccurate, but I think it made a conflict where there wasn’t one. It put the parks board in a position—what were they going to say?”

Adam acknowledges that the group erred in not fully investigated the cultural significance of the space and says that steps are in motion to address this. With regards to safety, he points to the their due-diligence and immaculate record of setting up safe highlines.

“It’s our responsibility that we don’t do anything that would cause harm to ourselves, or cause harm to others, especially when we’re trying to bring it [slacklining] into a public sphere. For that reason, we took every possible measure we could have. We weren’t just blindly stringing a rope up across the Sea Wall. It was thought out, and it was planned, and each detail was carefully considered,” says Adam.

“Of all the people that walked by, maybe two looked up and said, that’s dumb. Everybody else stopped, took out their camera and said, that’s cool. That part is really important: to look at the overwhelmingly positive side of it.”

This summer, Slacklife B.C. is planning on hosting a number of events throughout the region including the Assault on the Chief where lines will be set up in the North Gullies of the Squamish Chief and slackliners will come from across Canada and the States to walk them.

– Drew Copeland is a writer and climber based on the West Coast.