Alex Mason ascended eight slacklines up a jagged, 25m waterfall on the Big Island of Hawaii recently, shaping the lifestyle of slacklining in the process. The 2013 Slackline World Champion pushes the limits even when he's out of his element, tricking above the jungle floor. More significantly, the ascent was captured in a cinematic moment for the world to experience.
Slackline rigger ‘Sketchy’ Andy Lewis says the project was "all about the slacklining life. That’s why this video is so cool – it’s outside of the competitive realm. It’s more like the artistic realm, where the tricks that he did were not only an art of slacklining, [but also] caught on camera so we can share it with the public. I think it was really beautiful because when you see the footage you are transported into the jungle and you can actually taste it."
Nineteen-year-old Mason opens up about battling the elements, his dream, his fear and fire ants. Read it in his words below.
"Red Bull and I thought up the dream about a year and a half ago at an athlete summit. We brainstormed about cool ideas. We tracked down the right place and the right people to do it with. It morphed into this slackladder up the waterfall."
How did they do it? Go behind the scenes in the video below.
Out of his natural habitat
"I usually train in a gym or in a park with friends. Pads, indoors, artificial light, no wind, no wildlife, no running water underneath, no rock. That was not the case in Hawaii.
"It was definitely a little bit out of my element. I’m not used to slacklining in the jungle, 15ft [4.6m] over a jagged waterfall. Going into it was a little bit scary. A lot of the lines had potential for danger. There was a little bit of mental struggle with what we were doing there."
On rigger Andy Lewis
"Andy Lewis is kind of the godfather of the sport. He’s extremely knowledgeable about rigging [and] was the backbone of the project. He was the safety coordinator, so he was there to catch me when I fell. He was there to make things as safe as possible. Even though [he’s known as] Sketchy Andy, it was pretty safe."
On going insane
"One of the worst parts of it, surprisingly enough, was an abundance of fire ants where we were shooting. Hawaiian fire ants are extremely small, almost impossible to see and absolutely everywhere. You’d be climbing up a tree to rig a line or just on the line to do a trick and you’d feel something bite you.
"It’s very painful and you’d just be constantly itching. It’s constant pain, pretty rough. It caused you to go a little bit insane. Andy actually got completely naked at one point, covered himself in mud and went screaming off into the woods."
"I didn’t fall very much at all – I couldn’t. Falling would have hurt a lot, and I’m not down with getting hurt. I stuck to what I know and kind of stayed in my own head and didn’t fall. The best protection is not falling."
On overcoming the mental struggle
"Stick to the basics. I knew I could do it and I told myself that enough. There was no saying "no" once everyone was there. I wasn’t about to be that guy who walked away from a super-cool project.
"It was extremely hard work and a lot of logistics came together. I personally enjoyed it the entire time. The hardest parts for me are when it’s just work – gruelling, physical, boring labour. The entire time slacklining was hard to do, but we had a super awesome crew. I think everyone had a lot of fun doing it. We were in Hawaii, after all."
On the danger
"When we first showed up, it wasn't obvious it was going to work. I was pretty hesitant. It’s definitely hard to slackline with completely soaking wet lines. It’s almost impossible, extremely difficult, slippery. Your centre of gravity is different.
"It was super muddy because it had rained and it was really hard to get the cameras around. We overcame it all. I was going to do it to the best of my ability, no matter what happened."
On overcoming fear
"There was a lot of slippery stuff over jagged rocks with shallow water next to waterfalls and sketchy-looking anchors. I was pretty worried I was going to fall 15ft to rock. On my neck. A lot of times when you come off a slackline you’re not quite in control. It wouldn’t be bad at all if it were over grass, but it’s completely different over jagged rock.
"Once I got on the line I was in the zone, focused. You know you can do it and you just kind of do it. I just went for it."
On going uphill
"It’s cool to climb up the lines and go somewhere with it, because that’s not used necessarily in slacklining. It was pretty difficult to figure out how to transfer from line to line. That was a challenge, but there were some pretty creative transfers. There were fun tricks in there. Nothing that will necessarily change the world of tricklining or slacklining, but the lines they were done on were extremely difficult technically."
On setting the standard
"I just want to do bigger tricks and cool projects like this. So far it’s been an awesome ride. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, trying to push it as hard as possible."