22 Apr 2014 09:09
In a park in north Tehran, a new sport is drawing crowds.
With pants rolled up at the ankle and white earbuds dangling, a group of Iranian youth delight the onlookers by balancing on the narrow nylon bands anchored from the trees. Known as Slackline Tehran, this group meets almost everyday to practice. Most days of the week they practice in the many parks around Tehran, and on the weekends they escape to the nearby Alboraz Mountains further north of Tehran.
Unknown to most outside of the country, Iran has a vibrant outdoors community thanks to the many mountains throughout the country. â€śWe were all rock climbers,â€ť says Mojtaba Afarin, one of the groupâ€™s earliest members. The climbers soon heard of slacklining, a sport that in Tehran, is far removed from its origins in the United States
Most of the slacklining community credits students Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington with developing the sport in the 1979 at Evergreen State College in Washington State. Originally a cable strung between two trees on the campus quad, the sport has exploded in popularity throughout North America, and is now a fixture on university and college campuses.
To some, seeing a group of youth balancing and bouncing on ropes as an odd sight in Iran. However, over the last few years, urban sports such as parkour and slacklining have made a dramatic arrival. Iranians see Tehran as the most liberal and secular city, and also the one that sets the trends for the nation.
â€śWe donâ€™t usually have problems practicing,â€ť says Afarin. â€śBut if we are wearing shorts, or there are crowds that are too big, or there are girls practicing, then they kick us out.â€ť The group has grown from a few avid rock climbers to more than 100, with 4 or 5 girls.
Because rock climbing is a popular sport in Iran, the ropes and cams used to anchor the lines are fairly easy to acquire. However, the lines themselves cannot be found in Iran, and the group relies on friends and relatives in Canada to provide them with the gear.
Tehranâ€™s sprawling parks make for an ideal spot for the sport to take off. The rich greenery, which is a staple of public life, has more in common with university campuses than a heavily populated city.
Unlike tightrope walking, the slackness of the line creates a trampoline effect. Walkers can bounce up and down and perform tricks that would be impossible on a tightrope.