Jaw-dropping photos show man walking across slackline 50 storeys up

Katrina Clarke | Dec. 3, 2014 | Toronto Star

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Instagram photo

The photos are jaw-dropping. They show a man teetering on a thin rope, 50 storeys up, between two highrises. But shortly after surfacing online on social media websites, they have abruptly disappeared.

The images, posted on urban photographer Tom Ryaboi’s Facebook and Instagram pages Friday, showed a man walking across a slackline — a piece of nylon webbing about an inch thick — strung between two Toronto buildings. The images made the rounds on popular news sharing site Reddit Monday.

Toronto police say the stunt could be illegal. To slackliners, however, it’s “art.”

“It’s not as scary as you think once you’re there,” slackliner Gerald Situ told the Star Tuesday, confirming he is the daredevil in the photos. “It’s a challenge but it’s just pushing your own limits.”

Situ would not get into details about where the incident took place but said he and others involved — he did not say who — accessed the 50th storey of a building under construction in October by walking up stairs.

He confirmed he wore a safety harness.

“You are giving me palpitations,” one person commented on Ryaboi’s Instagram picture.

“Sick shot!!” posted another.

The photos have since been removed from Ryaboi’s accounts.

Police, however, say they have “massive safety concerns.”

The building owners could be liable if an injury or fatality occurred, Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said. If someone complains, charges could include trespassing, break and enter or mischief.

“The walking in between the ropes is not illegal itself. It is what you have to do (in order) to do that,” Hopkinson said. “You need permission to enter property.”

Hopkinson was not aware of any complaints about the recent stunt.

The slackline appears to have been strung up between two buildings being built near Bay St. and St. Mary St.

The Pemberton Group, which owns the “U Condos” currently under construction in that area, did not respond to requests for comment from the Star.

The Star found Ryaboi and Situ in a park Monday afternoon practising slacklining. Ryaboi, who is known for photographing cityscapes from the tops of skyscrapers, declined to comment on the photos.

“I’m definitely scared up there, but I’ve gotten comfortable at the same time,” he told the Star in a 2012 article about his love of “rooftopping.”

Situ’s stunt is considered “urban highlining,” which involves stringing a slackline high up in the air over a city, usually between buildings, said Slacklining Canada founder Xavier Vivas.

“It’s part of the urban art,” said Vivas. “It’s a very safe sport if it’s set up properly.”

Once considered a niche sport for rock climbers, slacklining is becoming mainstream, with amateurs often seen practising in Toronto parks.

For those with extreme tastes, “spacelining” — slacklining at even more extreme heights — is also an option, said Vivas.

Professional slackliner Andy Lewis walked between two hot air balloons 4,000 feet in the airearlier this year. He wore a parachute.

If a person wanted to carry out a death-defying stunt similar to Situ’s — legally — they would need permission from the building owners and would likely need to notify police to clear the street below, Hopkinson said.

A spokesperson for the City of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards said it does not deal with tightrope or slackline licensing or permits, “if indeed there is one need(ed).”

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About Katrina Clarke

Katrina Clarke is a Toronto- and Vancouver-based freelance reporter. Her work appears in the National Post, the Toronto Star, CBC Life and J-Source. Reach her at katrina.clarke24@gmail.com or on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.
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