Mia Noblet says you don’t have to walk a highline 400 meters above a wilderness waterfall.
Instead, you can walk a line that’s a foot above the grass in Lakeside Park in Nelson on a sunny summer afternoon with your friends.
“You don’t need to put a highline between peaks and mountains for it to be beneficial for balance,” she says. “You can just have it one foot off the ground, and it is just as great, and it is there for anybody to do.”
Noblet, 25, born and raised in Nelson, shares the world highlining record of two kilometres with Lukas Irmler of Germany, set in Quebec in 2018.
She says the difference between slacklining and highlining is a matter of debate. It’s simply a question of height, and Noblet’s take on it is that slacklining becomes highlining at the height where you need a safety harness.
On the occasional late afternoon at Lakeside, Noblet strings a few slacklines between trees at different heights, spreads the word among a slackline community in Nelson, and a group ranging from beginners to experts gathers to try the lines, practice their balance, learn from Noblet, socialize, and do some juggling and frisbee.
Asked why they like slacklining, the members of this relaxed and convivial group all tend to use the same words: meditative, focus, balance.
“I am an intermediate slackliner,” says Justine Gareau, who was at the park practicing with her two young children last week. “You have to concentrate to be able to do it, and you need to have good breathing. It is meditative. You have to be present. You have to pay attention to both your body and your mind. And it is just fun.”
The gathering is not a class or a workshop.
“I am always happy to give pointers and tips,” Noblet says. “But I don’t teach in a formal way, just keep it fun.”
Noblet’s mother, Ev Lynou, was also in the park, helping out. Asked if she is nervous about her daughter’s high-risk exploits, she says, “I am not scared because I trust her very much. She’s always been a very careful, co-ordinated person and so enthusiastic, so I’m just very happy.”
Noblet has walked some very high lines across wilderness and urban landscapes in a dozen or more countries including China, Australia, Brazil and Tunisia. She’s even done 60 metres in high heels and 420 metres blindfolded.
“Your mind thinks it will be harder than it is,” she says casually. “You only base yourself on what you feel in that present moment.”
Noblet traces her highlining career back to a moment when, at age eight, she saw a poster of a highliner in a sports store in Nelson.
“I decided I have to get into that.”
She tried it for the first time in 2015. She was terrified.
“But I wanted to put in the time so I could learn to put the fear aside and concentrate on the technical and mental – I had the will to put the fear in the back of my mind.”