Bonding with a Tough Crowd: Whip Out the Slackline!


Connecting with Russian Surfers at SurfJam 2015 in Bali!

yoga slackers russian surf jam 2015 bali warrior pose slackline slacklining

I arrived here in Bali with my partner on November 20th, after 28+ hours of travel from Bend, Oregon. (We left on the 18th!) There’s 16 hours time difference between here and home, and it was a long trip to say the least. Once we arrived at the Denpasar International Airport in Bali, we met our driver and continued to our little homestay, minutes from Balian beach (which was another 2 hrs travel by vehicle). I was happy when we finally got to unload our bags and stretch out our legs.

It was a nice surprise to find out that there was a surf competition happening the first 3 days of our trip. After resting the first night, we made our way down to the beach the following morning and discovered that it was a Russian surf competition. It was difficult to communicate since neither of us speak Russian, but easy and fun to watch all the same.

There was a stage set up for music during the evening hours and a wooden half pipe set up for a skate competition taking place the third night of the event. We walked around and checked out some photos and tried to share smiles with the Russian competitors, but did not receive many smiles in return. There was even a couple of occasions someone would start speaking Russian to us. We would respond in English, explaining simply that we did not speak Russian. To our surprise, they would respond back to us in English saying “You do not speak Russian?”, and then would walk away. We found this to be odd, but continued to explore and enjoy the beach.

Eventually we made our way back home to have some food before returning to the beach again for round two of smile sharing, or as we were experiencing, no smile sharing! My partner sat and relaxed as I started looking for somewhere to set up my slackline. I quickly found a couple of trees that were close enough to set up my YogaSlackers E-line, and I began playing on the line.

I thought for sure there would be some interest in the slackline from the surfers, but to my surprise there was little-to-no interest. I was playing for my own practice and fun, but was starting to wonder how I could connect with all these people around me who seemed not to even know I was there. At first I thought it was a language barrier, but after hearing many of the Russians speak some English I wrote that off. I decided to just relax and enjoy the line, taking in the waves as I settled into my exposure turn.

Breaking The Ice

After about an hour or so, I noticed one Russian surfer intrigued by the action on the line, so I gave him a wave to come over and play. He smiled and looked at his girlfriend who gave him an encouraging look, so he came over and decided to give it a try. He spoke in English saying “I’ve never done before.” I told him that’s okay and began to show him some basic techniques. This is where it got interesting for me as a teacher. Even though he spoke some English, I quickly discovered I had to use hand signals and body gestures to express what I needed for him to find success on the line.

teaching russian to slackline buddy thomas yogaslackers slacklining bali
We played for 15-20 min, and afterwards exchanged names. I was very happy to meet Lester, and he seemed equally happy to have tried something new and walked away with some success in Slacker Stance and Pointer. I appreciated finally breaking the ice and sharing some smiles with the Russians! My partner and I made our way back home and relaxed for the evening.

teaching russian slackline slacklining bali surf jam 2015 buddy thomas yoga slackers
The following day I set my line up again and the second I finished there was already someone on the line! A very eager and smiley women who was determined to walk the line. She was with a couple of Russian surfer friends and all of us played and practiced together. It was wonderful, and again I had to diversify my teaching technique using hand signals and body gestures. This was great practice for me, and in all showed me that doing what you love to do can be shared and taught no matter the barriers. I am forever grateful to all of the Russian surfers who decided to get out of there comfort zone and try something new with me. I thank all of them for sharing smiles and teaching me to communicate with little to no words!

Peace and Blessings,
Buddy Thomas