Darrin Carter | The History of Slack


Watching Scott’s failed Spire attempt in ‘84 planted the seeds in Darrin’s mind that allowed him to prove himself as a top highline contender over the next decade-- becoming the first slackline free soloist, and the second person to cross the Lost Arrow Spire.

Yet, for a while, Darrin just kind of hoped that feeling would go away. According to Scott, “You have to remember we grew up together… I’ve known Darrin since third grade. Chris and I picked up slackline right away. Darrin is kind of a ‘muscler’ guy; the kind of guy that doesn't have very good footwork when he climbs because he is so reliant on his muscles. He's the kind of guy that overhanging face is awesome, but slab climbing is like, ‘FUCK!’ For Darrin, it was really hard for him because he was so arm oriented. He kind of kept on hoping that it would go away, but after I successfully walked the Spire ‘85, it started to weigh heavily on him.

You know that feeling when you see somebody do something? Like if you watch somebody BASE jump and you've never seen BASE jumping, you're like, ‘HOLY FUCK. That was unbelievable!’ And you think, ‘They can do that, but I couldn’t do that.’ But when your FRIEND does it, you're like, ‘FUCK YOU! If you can do that, I can do that!’ So when him and Chuck saw me walk the Spire… that weighed heavily on those guys. And they started getting...well, I don’t even know how to describe it. If I tried to give Darrin any advice, he did NOT want any advice, but ya know, they were determined to go walk the Spire, and they continued to go to Yosemite every year until they did in ‘93.”

In that period of 8 years between Scott’s first crossing and Darrin’s second, Scott got married and moved to Tucson. Darrin started dating Chris Carpenter’s sister, so he also moved to Tucson for a few years. During that time, Darrin had never set up a slackline and never owned his own slackline, but he would go over and slackline with Scott all the time. Eventually he got pretty good and Scott told him, “‘You know what Darrin? You should buy a slackline. You're pretty fucking good at it now.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah I keep on wishing it would go away.’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, but NOW you can do it.’ And he's like, ‘Yeah..I guess.’” After that, Darrin moved to Hawaii and started slacklining all the time, still visiting Yosemite every summer. He began to spend hours training obsessively for one goal: soloing the Lost Arrow Spire without a leash.

He first attempted the spire (wearing a leash) in the summer of ‘92, but it proved unattainable that first time around. In 1993, he returned and made the second crossing of the chasm with a leash, and he was now the only other person to walk the Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite.

“Darrin's domination in the sport of highlining, however, didn't really come about until he moved to Tucson, AZ in 1995. His training ground was a rock formation in the Santa Catalina Mountains called the Fins. Scott had attempted a walk at this location in 1987 with no success. Darrin returned to that same spot with Scott in April of 1995. With absolute determination and the intended domination of his goal to become the ultimate highliner, Darrin made eight consecutive one way crossings of this 65-foot span. Scott made one. A demon inside Darrin was born. He could feel within himself that his purpose in life now made sense. With bold conviction, Darrin made multiple trips to the Fins over a number of weeks and made highlining his life's work. He was a machine. . . and his focus naturally shifted to mastering the Lost Arrow Spire. The 10th year anniversary of Scott's crossing of the Spire became Darrin's target date for his Spire mastery. Darrin made his training for this new goal a job. His highline technique truly became flawless. He built within himself this incredible ability to block out the majority of fear that is associated with walking up high. . . . Darrin made his return trip to the Spire in July of '95 with complete confidence and intensity. Scott accompanied Darrin's crew of friends that included Chuck Tucker and Tim Kirkwood. On the actual day of the walk, Darrin was like a caged animal waiting to be cut loose. Pacing, barking instructions, impatient and ready to go, Darrin had a unique way of psyching himself up. The brunt of his intensity was aimed at Chuck Tucker (also present to walk the Spire that day). Chuck, however, passively let Darrin do his thing while Scott Balcom and Tim Kirkwood assisted with the line setup. Once the line was ready to go, Darrin did just what he had set out to do. He walked the hell out of that line. Very confident and in the now, Darrin walked with smooth solid technique. First he made a number of one way crossings. Then he really got in the groove and started turning around, walking back and forth. On one occasion he even walked for about 20 minutes without stopping. Scott made a crossing for old time sakes. Chuck Tucker also managed to get across, with his very unorthodox slacklining style, for the second time (He successfully walked the Spire in 1994 his first time). Now that Darrin had mastered the Lost Arrow Spire, he did take it one step further. It was the sort of thing one thinks about yet rarely tries.” [The Evolution of Slacklining]

Scott tells the story this way: “In ‘95, we all went back up there on the 10th anniversary of the first walk, my first walk. We walked on Darrin’s rig, and Darrin's rig was one piece of tubular nylon one inch, with one piece of half inch stuck inside--the half inch hero loop stuff. We argued about it up and down. Darrin and I...he's really hard headed and I'm...I prefer to think of myself as stubborn. And we would argue about it, but he was the guy then right? Because by then Darrin was getting really good. And now I've passed the torch to him. He's gonna walk back and forth and I'm gonna walk once, so I have to kind of relinquish the control. ‘Okay, you weigh 50 lbs more than me. You walk it, I'll walk it. You weigh more than me. As long as it doesn't kill you, it won't kill me.’...But that line was embarrassingly light, and tied with a clove hitch… Anyway, Darrin walked it in ‘93, and Chongo walked it in ‘94, and then in ‘95 all three of us walked. I walked once. Chongo walked once, and tried to walk back, but was too drunk by then because he had been taking a little tequila to ease the burden of fear. And then that little bit of tequila ended up to be a little more tequila, and by the time he tried a second crossing, he was a little too buzzed for that. But Darrin broke out and walked back and forth and back and forth. But he would only turn one way, so eventually his leash...the only thing that would keep him from staying out there forever was his leash...was twisting into a knot and he would eventually have to stop because he didn't have a counter clockwise turn. But he would talk shit to himself to psyche himself up. His favorite thing to do would be to start yelling at Chongo...and start telling Chongo what a piece of shit he was.”

“Carter had had a harsh past, and leashless highlining seemed a way to break free. As he stood on the rim of the Lost Arrow Gap in 1995, he psyched himself up with insults. “Shit, dude, you’re trailer trash. You weren’t supposed to be first at anything.” But this time he pioneered the way, becoming the first to confront that wild air unprotected [and free solo the Lost Arrow Spire]. He went on to solo a sixty-two-foot gap across the Fins at Mount Lemmon, Arizona, as well as an eighty-foot gap between the two buildings, live on TV, for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. “I felt bulletproof!” he remembers. Slacklining stood still for a while after Carter’s intense feats. There seemed no logical step forward.” (The Space Between)


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