Feature image by Klaus Schlickmann
If highlining – the type of slacklining that involves walking along a suspended length of flat webbing that’s elevated and tensioned between two anchors on either side of a canyon or mountain range — is your idea of a good time, you’ve probably heard of Rafael Bridi. And if you haven’t heard of him yet, take a sec to read up before you head back outta reception zone.
Rafael “Rafa” Bridi aka The Bandit to his fellow slackliners, is one of a handful of athletes and enthusiasts committed to seeing the sport of slackline (and subtypes like highline, waterline, trickline and speedline) recognized as a legitimate sport. He and his friends helped establish some of the first highlines in Brazil in 2010, and Rafa has been hooked ever since. By being an ambassador of the sport participating at related events and hosting his own multi-day Gravatation Highline Festival in Florianopolis, Brazil, the self-dubbed “citizen of the world” hopes to help slackline grow beyond its mainly South American roots and increase international interest and support for the sport he credits for teaching him balance, concentration, and “put[ing] me in direct contact with my deepest feelings.”
But just who is the man behind the mustache – the guy they call The Bandit?
“My intention is to continue pushing my limits. . . to develop even further my skills in highline rigging and walking. For this to happen, it is essential to travel the world to interact with the entire slackline community, that has been overcoming the limits of this sport so much recently.”
If what you’ve read so far about Rafa conjures up an image of Ryu, the main character of Capcom’s SNES game Street Fighter so devoted to martial arts that he travels the world on a constant quest to improve his craft, you aren’t that far off. Rafa does have the duffel bag. He’s also relentless when it comes to pushing his limits. Take a look at these shots:
“Balance has been my guideword both in slackline as in my personal life. . . The more time I spend with this community, more passionate I get. In Brazil I started to develop the highline in my city together with amazing friends. . . Lately Brazil is becoming a popular trend in the slackline scene, the number of people practicing rises exponentially and the gear it’s becoming cheaper and accessible. I really want to continue being part of this evolution and contribute as much as possible to build this slackline history, a practice that provides intense balance between body, mind and spirit.” – Rafael Bridi, BalanceCommunity.com
Highlining is a mental exercise, and expeditions with heavy equipment can stretch days. But bridging concept with what can be executed on the ground, er, in the air is no simple task. “Rafa…Rafa has a very good mind,” said trickliners and fellow EDGEtv contributors Gabriel Aglio and Igor Zambelli last summer afternoon at the office over a chat about how slackliners learn to know when they’re ready to walk the line. Seeing how passionate Rafa is about slacklining and his focus on constant learning, you gotta figure they were talking about more than what Rafa can do on a highline.
Watch out for a new slackline film starring Rafael coming soon exclusively on EDGEtv.