SLACKLINING: Andy Lewis' performance during Super Bowl halftime brings attention to sport

Feb 13 2012 - 4:25pm

Images

Madonna (right) performs as Andy Lewis slacklines during the halftime show of Superbowl XLVI, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Slacklining is the act of balancing along a narrow, flexible piece of webbing low to the ground.

LIONEL HAHN/Abaca Press
Madonna (right) performs as Andy Lewis slacklines during the halftime show of Superbowl XLVI, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Slacklining is the act of balancing along a narrow, flexible piece of webbing low to the ground.

LIONEL HAHN/Abaca Press

GREENBRAE, Calif. -- Most of America still may not know what slacklining is, but the millions watching Madonna perform during halftime at the Super Bowl saw the increasingly popular sport in action, thanks to Andy Lewis.

Lewis performed acrobatic tricks and danced on the low, trampoline-like line during Madonna's show. The line was strung between two posts in front of the stage, where at one point Lewis received a kiss on the cheek from the pop star.

"It was pretty good," Lewis said of the experience. "I definitely loved the chance to go and work with her."

While he was likely unknown to many Super Bowl viewers, Lewis has become a well-known figure in slacklining since graduating from Larkspur, Calif.'s, Redwood High School in 2004. He is known as something of a pioneer for the young sport, which at its most basic is the act of balancing along a narrow, flexible piece of webbing low to the ground and usually anchored between two trees.

Tricklining pushes it further, with athletes performing flips and twists, and highlining takes it to even greater extremes, with lines strung across canyons and gorges, sometimes hundreds or thousands of feet above the ground. Lewis has become a leader in both varieties of the sport.

Lewis, who grew up in Greenbrae, Calif., and lives in Moab, was tapped to perform at the Super Bowl after Madonna saw a tricklining competition in November and approached Gibbon Slacklines -- a slackline equipment company and Lewis's sponsor -- about including it in the halftime show, said Ricardo Bottome, president of Canaima Outdoors, Gibbon's distributor for North and South America.

"It's very exciting," Bottome said. "It's a big day for slacklining."

Lewis spent about a month rehearsing for the show in New York and Indianapolis. He felt comfortable on the slackline, but found a more traditional dance routine more challenging, he said.

"I have never danced before, and the first choreographed dance I did I had to do at the Super Bowl halftime show, so I was pretty self-conscious," he said.

Lewis, who attended College of Marin for two years and graduated from Humboldt State University, has pursued slacklining full-time since 2008. He has won several international competitions and has been named world champion in each of the past four years.

At the Super Bowl, Lewis was cheered on by his parents, who live in Greenbrae, and watched from a friend's house in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

"It was a wonderful thing, both for Andy and the sport of slacklining," said Lewis' father, Roger Lewis.

Roger Lewis said it is not clear how the Super Bowl performance will affect his son's future.

"In terms of how much it will change his life, I really don't know," he said. "What I can say is he is sort of the old man of the sport now at 25. Many of the kids coming into the competitions are 10 years younger than him."

Andy Lewis has managed to pursue the sport he loves while scraping together a living through contest winnings, product sponsorships, video productions and paid appearances. He said he doesn't expect much to change after the Super Bowl.

"I think life will probably go on pretty much about the same," he said. "I don't want too much of a change in my life."

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