The first time Faith Dickey set foot on a highline she was, justifiably, terrified.
A highline is a tight cable stretched between two anchors. In between, a walker must balance on the 2-inch wide wire over great heights. And when we say great, we really mean it!
Highlining is more than just a physical pursuit — it’s a huge mental challenge as well. But once participants overcome their fear, the process of putting one foot in front of the other becomes a meditative experience for many of these accomplished athletes.
Faith has been highlining and slacklining for the past 10 years. She is now a pioneer of the sport with multiple world records under her belt, but the first time she tried the sport she had to make a few mental adjustments.
“The first time I highlined the experience was so intense, I felt like my slacklining skills disappeared,” she explained. “I never thought I was afraid of heights, but once on a highline it seemed that I was. My whole body was shaking. It was almost as if it is was too much information for my body to experience. I now know that it was an adrenaline rush like I’d never experienced before.”
Over time, the Austin, Texas native built up enough trust in herself to tackle any highline put before her. She studied the mechanics of the highline so she could fully understand the process, and the more she did it, the better she got at it.
“There are a lot of ingredients that go into trusting something,” said Faith. “For me to trust myself to highline, I had to learn to trust the line and its rigging, to trust my equipment and my teammates, and then I had to learn to trust my body. It was only once I had all of these ingredients under my belt, that I was able to do highline.”
With trust came courage, something Faith has a lot of! She began challenging herself with longer and higher lines, eventually tackling canyons and mountains across Europe in addition to the United States.
In 2010, she set a personal record for highlining at 4,000-feet in the Swiss Alps. A few years later, she set a world record as the first woman to reach a highlining length of 100-meters.
“I don’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie,” Faith explained. “For me, highlining is methodical and it’s meditative. With every highline I walk, there is a ton of preparation. And then once I’m up on the line, there’s a sense of calm; all outside pressures slip away. I’m in the moment, focused solely on my balance and what’s in front of me.”
Faith soon realized there were very few female highliners, and she set out to change that fact. She organized the first Women’s Highline Meeting, a festival in the Czech Republic where female highliners can network and practice their skills. Attendance at the event has quadrupled in the first few years!
While most highliners use a safety harness in case they fall, Faith is one of the few athletes who has attempted highlines “free solo,” or without any safety equipment. In 2009, she walked a 91-foot highline rigged 82-feet above the ground in Ostrov, Czech Republic, nabbing yet another world record.
In spite of her achievements, Faith insists her sport is more about mental than physical agility.
“Being on a highline has forced me to do a lot of self reflection,” she said. “What is going on in my mind is a lot more clear when I put myself out there. If there is a lot of negativity swirling in my head, getting on a highline helps me become aware of that so I can work on it back on the ground.”
Faith insists that her sport is accessible for everyone, just as long as they’re mentally ready to tackle their fears! She has managed to forge a path that many women don’t take, not because they can’t, but because they don’t think they can. With mind over matter, almost anything is possible!
Watch the video below to learn more about this incredible athlete, and don’t forget to share.
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