Slackline Express - Balance In LifeOuray Highline

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Year in review

As we wave goodbye to 2004 and say hello to a new year we have decided to take a look at what the past year has brought.

New beginnings

First off, I'll try and not bore you too much. In late 2003 I saw an opportunity to give back to the climbing community and to help further the sport of slacklining. It looked like something that would be fun that I could manage on the side of school, so I went for it. Slackline Express LLC was officially formed Jan 3 of 2004. Any slacklines we put out before that I handled under my own personal responsibility that I made and sold on EBay. I already had the base designs and once the business name, license and such was official, we opened up www.slacklineexpress.com added a E-commerce store and started offering goods on EBay as well. We started off with $100 to work with and a sport we wanted to watch blossom. 

New growth

From our perspective, the sport of slacklining really took off during 2004. At the start there were only a handful of companies out there, this year slackers were blessed with more choices as several other companies threw their hat into the ring. Each quarter our sales grew tremendously and it hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

We, myself with the occasional help of my friends, started off in a garage shipping a kit or two each week and about $100 to buy tools and inventory. It didn't go very far, but thankfully there seemed to be a strong interest in anything new for the sport. Now at the end of our first year of business we take up most of my house and ship several kits each day. We still do it all in a few hours each day part time. We now have several hundred if not thousands of kits in all but a couple of states in the US and in a wide array of countries across the globe and even on all of the continents except Antarctica. One thing we've done well is picking up a variety of people along the way. It seems our customers are of a diverse background. They include doctors, lawyers and climbing bums alike. Judging from our sales, the sport is nearly equally split among gender, or at least of those who buy pre-made lines, and has at least some variety of age groups as well. The very young and the much more "life experienced" have gotten into the sport.

During the year, we hosted around 100 slackline workshops in Springfield, MO. During that time we taught over 300 people the basics of slacklining. We've taught four year olds to 77 year old grandmothers. It seems the sport has something to offer almost everyone.

New gear

During the course of 2004, we redesigned the intro kit twice, the deluxe kit seven times and the 100 foot kit was created for those who wished to push even further. Currently, that's the longest pre-made line on the market and the only one meant for solo setup of any real size.

Not all of our creations ever went public.
We created 7 different adjustable tree sling designs before deciding to let our customers pick between the two that best represented price ranges.
There have been 3 different tree friendly designs.
We've designed over 20 tensioning systems and scraped all but a few.
We've decided to offer an unprecedented number of options with our main slackline kit. A slacker can now pick from a variety of options that allow them, not us, to pick how much they are willing to spend and even the look and feel of their kit.
We designed dozens of custom made components and slacklines based on customer specifications.

Broken gear

One of the side effects of new designs is testing. Lots of ideas didn't cut it due to just not being as handy or economical as others, while others had spectacular failures. Some of them were fun to watch, others were just awe inspiring at the forces involved. We saw webbing be melted together under use, carabiners break, steel pins snap, outrageously large anchors be pulled up and even managed to bend the sides out on a pickup bed. One anchor failure left me on crutches for 2-3 weeks as I took metal shards to the heel. Most frustrating however was that we managed to burn up 3 "industrial" sewing machines.

Growing pains

This year wasn't always fun and games, it involved a lot of hard work too. Holiday rushes that coincided with finals weren't very fun. Most notable however was the introduction of our company to the market and that of any of the new companies in early 2004. It seems the sudden change in the market caused quite a stir among the two companies that pre-dated us. Before either of them had even seen or heard the specifications of our gear we'd received some rather distasteful emails and "reviews" from them. Both had a lot to say and we got an ear full. It seemed any new competition or new ideas were being bashed, well before anyone of them had ever seen, much less tried any of the new gear. The "purity" of the sport seemed the center of the debate and they didn't want to lose a say in where the sport was heading.

However, the slackliners themselves had something completely different to say. It was they who proved far more persuasive. Once we got the word out, we were received with open arms. With only a handful of slacklines that had been shipped, we immediately started receiving thank you letters on a weekly basis. They were thrilled with the results, how easy the slacklines were to use and that we were offering them cheaper than they could have built them themselves. Many of them had used or even owned other slacklines, but loved the results they had with ours. We quickly started compiling honest gear reviews from our customers.

It was our customers who made this endeavor worth pursuing. It wasn't their money they gave us that was important, it was their support. They accepted us with open arms and we became the new alternative. To continue to give back to the sport, we set out to create one of the largest informational resources for slacklining out there and looking back on the last year, especially from the thank you letters we receive, it looks like we succeeded in doing just that. We offer a large variety of free slackline movies, photos, tips and tricks, even if it isn't about our gear. We don't want to sell informational movies on slacking, we'd rather give this information away to help promote the sport. To us, that's the real "purity" of this sport - a free style sport and culture that offers something for most everyone.

Looking back

This year we made a lot of friends, spread the sport as best we could, made a lot of people happy and even learned a lot. I know all of us here at Slackline Express wouldn't have traded this last year for anything. We can only hope to continue to be as successful at serving our customers and furthering the sport we love so much.

Sincerely,

Joe Kuster (Slackline Joe)

Child walking a slackline

"This hobby is one of the most awesome things I've ever done. Your kit made set up so easy." - Heather M. More Gear Reviews