Highlining is not a sport for the faint of heart. Each step forward takes serious concentration, a strong core, and enough willpower to put one foot in front of the other while balancing high above the ground.
Members of the French slacklining team Sangle Dessus-Dessous clearly have those traits covered. On June 9-10, 2017, four members of the team attempted the longest highline ever, and three of them completed the walk.
Much like tightrope walkers, slackliners walk across flat webbing—a woven fabric used in place of rope—that’s been suspended in the air. But while tightropes are run with immense tension, slacklines are looser and allow for some stretch and movement. Highlining takes the sport even further by bringing slacklines to greater heights and more dangerous routes. But the sport is worth the risk for highliners like Nathan Paulin, who says, "When you are on a highline, all [your] feelings are stronger: freedom, happiness, fear, love. Even nature's beauty is more visible."
To help alleviate some of the danger, the French team wore harnesses, attached a backup line for safety, and worked with Highline Rescue Experience to develop a recovery plan for any possible falls or failures.
Slackliner Guillaume Barrande organized the event for the team—coordinating the establishment of the 5,453-foot (1,662-meter) line. It was placed 1,115 feet (340 meters) above the Cirque de Navacelles, a valley within a UNESCO World Heritage site in France’s Massif Central mountain range. The athletes were plagued by serious winds and a complication with the backup line during the first few days of preparation, but eventually the team was able to undertake the route.
Pablo Signoret walked the line first, followed by Paulin—who held the previous record for the longest highline completed. The next day, Lucas Milliard and Antony Newton attempted the journey. Milliard crossed the fastest of the group at one hour and six minutes, while Newton fell just 499 feet (152 meters) from the end of the line.
Having completed the lengthy highline over the Navacelles valley, Signoret, Paulin, and Milliard now share the current world record.