With summer in full swing, the hot topic of the week is:
“Is it a good idea to rig from trees?”
GREAT question! Is it safe? Why is there so much controversy? I see so-and-so doing it, so what’s the big deal? More great questions! Let’s chat!
The Allure of Trees
What aerialist hasn’t looked at a gorgeous tree branch and thought, “Man, I would love to hang on that!” Trees are beautiful, seem strong, and totally whisper to our just-a-little-bit-and-sometimes-a-whole-lot-granola side. And don’t we all have fabulous memories hurling ourselves off a tire swing or rope into a river? Or climbing until we were positively giddy with our own daring? Besides, it seems like a super cheap alternative to renting studio time. Why shouldn’t we just grab a branch and get to making the fabulous?
The Problem With Trees
It’s not that you CAN’T rig safely from trees – for sure, it can be done. The big question is, do YOU have the expertise to do it? Unless you’re a professional rigger with an arborist for a best friend, I seriously doubt it. It comes down to what all aerial rigging comes down to: accurately assessing the structural integrity of an overhead anchor, understanding the forces likely to be placed on it, and then rigging accordingly.
Accurately assessing the overhead anchor – Are you SURE you know what’s happening inside that branch? Do you know signs of disease in trees? What about how weather conditions (lots of rain, drought, etc) affect them? How to check for signs of distress in the branch you want to hang from? There are SO MANY things that factor into the health of the tree.
Understanding the forces likely to be placed on it – How familiar are you with rigging REALLY? Do you understand how much force you generate when you climb? What about drops? Were you planning on crawling out on that branch and rigging 5 or 6 feet from the trunk with a span set and carabiner? Or, better yet, were you going to go out and choke your fabric directly to the branch? If you were thinking about doing either of these things, friend (and I say this with love), you have no idea what the hell you’re doing. Get off that poor tree. I’m not trying to ruin your fun, but there are a lot of complex factors at play here.
Where This All Leaves Us (Ha Ha – Get it? LEAVES?!)
The bottom line is that it’s a horrible idea to rig to ANYTHING if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Most of the students who come to me with questions about trees do so because they’re looking for a cheaper alternative to studio space. HEAR ME NOW. By the time you hire a rigger, arborist, and purchase proper equipment, it’s unlikely to be a cheaper alternative. Know what’s also not cheap? Hospitals. Lawsuits. Funerals. Get what I’m saying? Don’t be a dufus. Don’t be an ARROGANT dufus. A wise aerialist knows the limit of his or her expertise, and respects it. For the sake of our community, I hope you’ll do the same. If you’re determined to rig from a tree – do it right. Hire professionals!
Here’s a great article (thank you Jordann Baker & Sadie Hawkins for posting this!) on tree rigging – give it a look. It really points out the particular challenges of rigging safely from our leafy friends without hurting the tree or us. Read it read it read it now! Love and pull-ups, Laura
As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.