Spokane Woman Competes at Highline World Championship in Switzerland 

Cover photo courtesy Kara Ratcliff

Twenty-five-year-old Spokane resident and EWU student Kara Ratcliff is one of 42 athletes competing in the upcoming Highline World Championship, July 17-21 in Laax, Switzerland. She will be competing in the Freestyle Female division against 11 other women, including one other American. 

Ratcliff, who moved to Spokane from Boulder, Colorado, in fall 2022 and is a student in EWU’s Physical Therapy doctorate program, has been slacklining for less than three years. “I grew up doing gymnastics and have always enjoyed doing flips and being upside down,” she says. Highline athletes get to be creative with their movements, including tricks, which Ratcliff enjoys. “And I like being outside. So highlining combines two things I love,” she says. For highlining, Ratcliff wears a climbing harness with a two- to four-foot leash (climbing rope) attached to the one-inch-wide highline, which is typically 60-80 meters long for freestyle (approx. 197-262 feet). 

Photo Courtesy Kara Ratcliff

The World Championship will be Ratcliff’s very first in-person highline competition. Last year, she competed in a virtual international competition, Bring Your Own Bounce, where athletes posted videos to Instagram of them highlining to be judged on the style and difficulty of their tricks and combos. She placed second in the Open category. Ratcliff qualified for the World Championship as the “Wild Card Winner” to compete against the International Slackline Association’s (ISA) Top 10 Women. To be considered for the open “Wild Card” spot, Ratcliff submitted two videos that demonstrated her skills. 

To prepare for the Championship, Ratcliff has been practicing one to two hours at a time on the line. “I have to put a lot of tricks in a row—a combo—so I have a journal with combination ideas, and I practice those over and over again,” she says. While she has some prepared tricks that she knows she’ll want to do, Freestyle is not a choreographed routine. One must “be able to pivot if a trick doesn’t go the right way,” she says. Most of all, Ratcliff aims to have fun “because it helps with my creativity on the line.” Ratcliff says she is excited for the opportunity to train with professional highliners, all of whom she’s only seen online. “Getting to learn from them will be super fun,” she says. The Highline World Championship will be livestreamed; find more info at Swiss-slackline.ch. (Amy McCaffree) 

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