Gobble Gobble, Bitches….Yeah!

An Introduction to the Highlining Community

I mean, look….was this highline gathering the coolest thing I’ve ever seen? I think perhaps, yes. Yes, it was.
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How does one explain highlining? I guess we gotta start with slacklining first. Slacklining is a strange and unique sport. It looks like tight rope walking, and I suppose that’s what most people think it is. It’s balance training, moving art, trancelike movement. Take a one inch piece of webbing, stretch it between 2 points (oftentimes trees) and try and walk across it. It usually bounces a little. It’s extremely hard!

Now take that slackline, and rig it up somewhere insane. Between canyon walls, perhaps? Between mountain peaks? Somewhere with insane exposure, so that walking out on the line gives even the best slackliners instant vertigo. This is highlining.

So what is GGBY? It stands for Gobble Gobble, Bitches…Yeah! and takes place over Thanksgiving week every year (hence the gobbling). Its an annual gathering of highliners–in fact, its the largest gathering in the world. Located WAY OUT THERE outside of Moab, Utah, the highliners come from everywhere. 15 highlines stretch out high above the desert floor, between tall canyon walls. Some are quite short, but the longest ones stretch hundreds of feet. Athletes step out, literally walking into the void. Yoga folk, climber folk, dirtbag folk, happy folk. Sometimes all the highlines had people on them, and that was beautiful—to look out across the landscape and see people floating out there right next to each other in the in-between.

I met people from all over the world. I honestly had no idea that highlining spanned the globe and had such an interconnected and international community to it. I met people from Chicago, Florida, Colorado, California, Arizona, as well as Canada, Australia, Finland, Germany, France, and Poland… asking for stories was one of my favorite things over the past few days.

I am entranced by this community. The most unexpected thing I found is that highliners didn’t strike me as crazy adrenaline junkies or thrill seekers. Sure, some of them might be, but most people seemed like it was more about balance, strength, mental control, or being present in the experience.

I sat around a campfire listening to them talk about highlining. They spoke of “their first steps on the line” as if it were an experience of being reborn. They didn’t seem crazy. They seemed to be apart of something I couldn’t quite understand–that most people probably couldn’t quite understand–an experience of mind-body connection and transcendence that’s beyond comprehension unless you’d done it. I definitely couldn’t picture myself out there with them. But then again, I can’t even walk on a slackline when its 6 inches off the ground.

What I love about the west is how BIG the people are out here. The West fosters BIG ideas. Whether it’s sending it off of cliffs on skis/snowboards, climbing up giant rock faces or walking out above perilous heights on a 1-inch wide piece of webbing….this craziness becomes normal, and I love it, I love it, I love it so much!
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Note: Every one of the people I saw had harnesses on, and were locked in and tethered to a leash attached to the line. The start of every highline also had signs about buddy checks and harness checks. I personally didn’t see any soloing, though I hear it happens, along with BASE jumping and other wild stunts! People’s safety is ultimately their own responsibility and obviously those not using protection are well aware of their own limitations (or lack thereof!). However, when people fall using a leash, it’s a fall the length of their leash into space, and while you can get some nasty whiplash, one wouldn’t fall to their deaths. They just climb back up on the line and keep going!

Published by alexandriacantrell22

Trail-name: Pocahontas Atlanta-native and based out of SLC, Utah. Appalachian Trail 2016, the Colorado Trail 2018, Timberline Trail 2018

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