Valentin Rapp is a filmmaker, photographer and highline enthusiast who’s inspired by athletes who push themselves to the limit in the most unique worldly locations.
Embarking on a three-week trip to Tasmania, Valentin got the chance to explore a multitude of highlining opportunities along its rugged coastline. Camping in, and trekking through the Tasmanian jungle however, added a completely different challenge to the trip than that of just rigging a highline in each location.
We spoke to Valentin to understand more about the journey he undertook, to find and reach the perfect highlining spot.
How did you get involved in highlining, and what about it keeps you coming back to it?
I started slacklining with friends at home a couple of years ago. At first we only rigged short lines in the park which were close to the ground. As we got better and could walk longer lines we looked for the next big step. At that time we were also all into climbing and spending time in the near mountains. So when we heard about highlining it was clear to us that this was next step. What keeps us coming back to it, is the fact that no day highlining is like the other. Every line is different, every spot has its own characteristics in terms of exposure or length and your mental strength is always a variable. Even when you practice at a spot you already know and where you feel very comfortable on the line there are endless possibilities of challenging yourself with tricks on the highline.
What does it take to be a good highliner? Can anyone do it?
It takes a lot of ambition to be a good highliner. To be ready for the first highline it took me countless hours of practising on a normal slackline. But besides the fact that it takes a lot of physical exercise it super important to know how to set it up safely. The best thing to do when starting to highline is joining experienced people who know how to rig it in a safe way. Also when you have good highliners around you they can give you important tips for overcoming fear on your first steps.
How do you go about training your mind for something like highlining? Is the mental aspect more challenging than the physical demands?
I guess the best way to train your mind for highlining is spending a lot of time on the line. While progressing in the sport it develops from an above all mental game where you try to overcome the fear of falling to a more physical challenge where you are used to the height and try to walk longer lines or make tricks on the line.
How did the expedition come about? What was it about Tasmania that appealed to you?
As we are always looking for unique spots to rig our highlines we heard about the famous sea cliffs in Tasmania. After seeing some photos of them we knew we had to go there. Lukas and me got in contact with Max and Preston from the US who already joined Lukas on previous adventures. They were also keen on exploring the island for spots to rig some highlines.
To get to the cliffs, you had to trek 18km through the decidedly unglamorous Tasmanian undergrowth. Can you tell us a little more about that journey, the challenges involved and how it shaped your experience as a whole?
In Tasmania you never know what to expect from a trail by looking on the map. It is very hard to judge how long it will take you from point a to b when you only have the thin line on the paper. We have not expected how dense the jungle is and how hard it will be to haul our big heavy backpacks over and under fallen over trees while being covered in mud from trail. Wet feet is also something we had to get used to. When we started the hike we tried to avoid the puddles on the trail but after a couple of hours it was clear that it is just to much work to always try to avoid them and we started wading through the leech infested mud. As we were limited on what we could takes with us we knew that this meant cold and wet feet for the next days because there was no possibility for drying our clothes and shoes. But I guess this was again a big part of the ‘enjoyable suffering’ that made the whole trip an adventure that will be kept in our minds.
You talk in detail about falling on the line. How do you deal with something like that? How long did it take to for you to get to a place mentally where something like that wouldn’t be detrimental to your confidence?
Failing is part of every sport, I guess. In highlining every day is different. On some days you really fight hard with your own mental strength and it is very demanding to get back up again and motivate yourself to try the walk again and on other days you are relaxed and able to just set one foot after the other till you are at the end of the line. Days like these keep me motivated to get out there again and again.
You talk a lot about the payment, the ‘enjoyable suffering’ you require from an expedition like this. Why is this important to you?
The moment you successfully establish a highline afters days of suffering is the one that stays in your mind forever. You can appreciate every step one the line when you really have to work hard for it. I can especially enjoy this feeling when there`s a big team effort behind a project and everyone is rewarded for his work with a good walk on the line.
Your story is a great example of making your own path – both literally and metaphorically. What is it about heading into the unknown (and all the hardships that come with it) that motivates you?
What makes an adventure a good one is when you can`t plan everything. It often brings hard work but that`s what makes the reward even more enjoyable. The unexpected is what motivates me the most. I often let things happen and then make the best out of it because it is more rewarding to me then already knowing what I will get beforehand.
Click here to read more about Valentin’s trip highlining in Tasmania.