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Category Archives: Rigging

Aerial Rigging – What You Don’t Know Could Kill You


Laura and Angela with a big old bunch of biners!

Aaaaand we’re back to the aerial teaching thread! (Did you miss the first few posts? Catch up! Click here and here. )

Today friends, we’re chatting about what EVERY aerial instructor (and student, for that matter) should know about aerial rigging. I quite genuinely don’t care if you “only teach for XYZ Studio and they handle all of the rigging” – you have a responsibility to yourself and your students to know the basics. See a hole in your knowledge (or your fabrics)? Fix it pronto!

Rigging Basics

As a coach, you should be able to:

  • Identify equipment & it’s proper use.
    • It’s not enough to know the name of your apparatus (and, for the record, tissu is the curtain you climb, tissue is what you blow your nose with).
    • You should know the industry terms for ALL your equipment (shackles, carabiner, span set, swivel, rescue 8, etc.).
    • You should understand how each piece was designed to be used (including contraindications), and be able to select the “right tool for the job”.
  • Understand common rigging terms such as bridle, basket, choke, etc.
  • Tie common knots such as the bowline, figure 8 loop, and clove hitch.
  • Maintain & inspect equipment, and keep a rigging inspection log.
  • Have written standards in place for retiring equipment.
  • Understand of how shock loads in dynamic movement affect the body & rigging (ex: are you teaching a drop to double ankle hang from a dead hung rig on a low-stretch fabric? It’s back to basics for you, m’dear!)
  • Explain clearly and concisely why we do not rig and teach from trees. 
  • Teach your students about what they’re hanging from. Take every opportunity to educate your behbehs on equipment inspection, hardware, angles, knots, etc.


Now – if I walked into your studio and asked you, or the instructors that work for you, any of the above questions, would we have an awkward moment? From some of the conversations I occasionally have, my guess is yes…. But, it doesn’t have to be this way, friends!

Closing the Gaps in Your Aerial Rigging Knowledge

So, you’re not rock solid in a few areas (or more than a few). What do you do?

  • Become a pro-active sponge. Be relentless in your pursuit of rigging knowledge, and take gaps in your understanding seriously. DON’T be an idiot and pretend that you know more than you do – that’s how people get hurt. Not sure what you don’t know? Then….
  • Take a workshop. Brett Copes, Jonathan Deull, and many other EXCELLENT aerial riggers have started offering fantastic workshops for aerialists. If they come anywhere near you, run to sign up – they’re worth every penny and more.
  • Hit the books! Here are some of my favorites.
  • Get up close and personal with a rigger.
    • If you’re on an event with a professional rigger doing your set-up, ask them to walk you through the rig (they will probably offer anyway). Don’t be afraid to politely ask questions! In ye days of olde, when I was on tour, we had some phenomenal riggers (Tracy Nunnaly and Bill Auld) who not only answered all our questions, but went WAY out of their way to educate us about everything from angles to equipment.
    • Schedule a private lesson. Many riggers will teach a one-on-one or group session in basic rigging for a very reasonable fee.
    • Cultivate a good relationship with several excellent aerial riggers – you should have at least two on speed dial.
  • Scour the interwebs. You can find a number of great resources! A few of my favorites include:
  • Be more social. The Safety in Aerial Arts FaceBook group is a great place to read up on best practices, ask questions (please search before you ask – you’re probably not the first person to have your question), and connect with top riggers in the industry.
  • Have a regular rigging training/refresher for your instructors. Invite Brett or Jonathan to do a rigging workshop in your space, and/or hire a certified rigger to come in once a year to a) do an inspection of your space and b) make sure all your instructors have a solid understanding of what’s keeping everyone in the air.


Rigging is kind of important (!!!), but green instructors often consider it peripheral – preferring to focus on trick-collecting and pointy toes. You can’t see me right now, but I have on my serious “Laura Means Business” face. RIGGING IS NOT PERIPHERAL KNOWLEDGE, IT IS ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE. 

Your mission for this week? Pick out one thing above and order it, sign up for it, learn it, do it, schedule it, juggle it, etc. I’m going to brush up my knots an make sure they’re still tight and right. What are YOU going to focus on? Do you have a favorite resource I didn’t mention? Comment below! Love and pull-ups, Laura




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Ring-a-Ding-Ding! The Posts That Had You Talking in 2013!

Hello Dear Danglers! Just for funzies (and because we’re all snot factories over here – Happy New Year), I thought it might be fun to take a quick trip down memory lane. Here are the top posts that had you guys all fired up, with your knickers in a twist, or both in 2013!

  1. Why YOU Want to Be More of a Tight Ass – Essential Stability for Aerial Arts
  2. Get a Grip! 5 Ways to Improve Hand Strength
  3. … and The Ultimate Hand Warm-up!
  4. C is for Cookie – The Ultimate Aerial Diet
  5. Defensive Much? Learning from Criticism
  6. Rigging From Trees: Magical or Moronic?
  7. The Great Boobie Caper: Aerial Necklines
  8. … and Part 2!
  9. 5 Ways to Bounce Your Booty Back Faster After a Break
  10. The pregnancy series! Trimester 1 , Trimester 2, Trimester 3!


I didn’t write this in 2013, but I’m going to include it anyway since it caused quite the stir. 😉 Workin’ Cheap: How Shortsighted Ninnies are Ruining our Profession, and Part 2!

So, let’s welcome this new year by celebrating the insanely awesome (and sometimes questionable) things we can do! Enjoy! Love and pull-ups, Laura



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Rigging Workshop in Knoxville, TN!

Hey Dear Danglers! If you’re anywhere near Knoxville, TN, RUN – don’t walk – to a great workshop being taught by one of the top aerial riggers in the USA!!! I wish I could be there!





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Rigging From Trees – Magical or Moronic?

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


Rigging From Trees Article


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When to Retire Your Carabiners

Hello Dear Danglers! The following was brought to my attention by one of my all-time favorite riggers (and all around great guy) Mr Bill Auld. Many of us have heard the whole “if you drop a carabiner from higher than waist height you should retire it” bit. That’s super extreme, ya’ll. Give the following a read, and you’ll see that it’s not quite that simple! Love and pull-ups, Laura


“This is a controversial topic that comes up every so often and which, due to the often singular importance of carabiners, is worth some further research.

If you want the one word executive summary, it would read; “No” (as in no, you don’t need to immediately discard dropped carabiners). If however you want to know when you should and shouldn’t, and why, then read on…”




UPDATE: If this was of interest to you, here are some more resources!

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Destructive Testing of Aerial Fabric

Hey – ever wonder what happens when a fabric fails? How much force is needed to make that happen? How wear and tear affects a fabric’s strength?


A few years ago, I donated my very first fabric to Phil Servita and his Machine That Breaks Things. You can find the results here (I’m Destructive Test #2): Really interesting!!! Many thanks to Ka Him Lau – I had forgotten about this. 🙂


Love and pullups, Laura

My poor fabric when it finally bit the dust!




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Deals And… Steel? Choosing Smart Rigging

I hope everyone is recovering from a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving! Now that there’s a little more of us to hoist into the air, I figured it would be a great time to talk about some of the equipment you’ll need to keep you there safely. Let’s talk heavy metal, baby!

In the coming weeks, we’ll chat about basic rigging (swivels and biners and slings – oh my!), but let’s start with some basics. Today’s Big Question: should you buy steel or aluminum? The Big Answer: both. Heh heh – and you thought this would be simple!

Here is the general rule: if you’re going to dangle from it, it should be steel. If you will NOT be dangling from it, use aluminum. The One Exception (every good rule has one!) is swivels – current industry standard remains the aluminum swivel (I like Petzl). Here are the nuts and bolts (oh, I crack myself up):

  • for our purposes, “dynamic load bearing” means hanging a person
  • use steel for dynamic loads (steel carabiners, resue 8’s, etc.)
  • use aluminum for points that are NOT dynamic load bearing (example: to swag your apparatus off)
  • aluminum swivels remain the industry standard

So, what’s the difference? Here’s the thing: theoretically, aluminum can shatter/break/fail with no warning. This is bad for you. Steel, on the other hand, will visibly deform before it fails, giving you ample time to notice and change it out. So, why use aluminum at all? It’s lighter (makes a big difference when you’re toting half a ton of equipment). It’s frequently used by rock climbers for this reason – who wants to lug 40 pounds of steel up the side of a mountain? BUT, it’s worth noting that they retire their aluminum equipment if they take a fall – we repeatedly shock (“fall”) on our equipment, & I don’t want to replace my biners every time I do my act! So, I use steel – better safe than sorry.

So what’s the deal with aluminum swivels? Why are those OK? The short answer is that the rigging community at large hasn’t found a steel alternative that they like better (that I’m aware of – please let me know if you’ve found a good steel swivel that you like!). So, the aluminum swivel remains industry standard. This will likely change as more companies begin making rigging specific to aerial work, but for now, what does it mean for you? My personal general rule of thumb is that I don’t use a swivel unless I feel I really need one – if I can eliminate it, I do. More on swivels in the future – it’s a topic all on it’s own!

And now, some more entertaining metal. Love and pull-ups, Laura

The AMAZING Tanya Gagne (owner of Big Sky Works) and Adrienne Truscott as the Wau Wau Sisters! Run do not walk to see them the next time they perform in NYC!!!



DISCLAIMER:  Always consult a certified rigger for your rigging needs.

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Rigging MANIA!!!

Howdy peeps! This rigging resource was just brought to my attention, and it’s fantastic. If you think a bridle is only something that horses wear, or that a swivel is what your hips do when you’re dancin’, get a move on. I’ve walked into many a terrible rigging situation, so don’t assume someone will always be there to do your rigging (or that the person who IS there knows what they’re doing). Start educating yourself now! Start here, and pass it on – friends don’t let friends hang off a coat hanger and some fishing line.  Happy rigging! Love and pull-ups, Laura (scroll down for the section on rigging)

Rig Bags – Why The TSA Loves Us

Raise your hand if you LOVE trying to explain to the TSA agents at airport security a) what the heck that heavy spinny screwy thing in your bag is and b) what you plan to do with it. OY! (Here’s a helpful hint – just tell them it’s rock climbing equipment, it’s more likely to get you through without having to pantomime a 90 minute show.) In any case, that bag they’re so carefully scrutinizing is your rig bag, and we’re going to chat about what you might want to have in there. This is a whopper of a topic, so expect more posts on this down the line.

Rig bag fun!


First, your bag should be sturdy canvas, denim, or other heavy material. I like a zippered closure, and it’s really nice to have several pockets on the inside to separate out some of your gear. Speaking of gear, let’s get to it! Here’s what we bring to a “light” event, meaning we know ahead of time that we will only need the bare essentials (rigging to pre-hung truss for example). Remember – it’s better to be looking at it than looking for it!

  • steel carabiners (for load bearing points) in the appropriate size for your apparatus
  • aluminum carabiners (for non-load bearing points – to swag your apparatus off, for example)
  • span sets/slings of varying lengths (we prefer black for masking reasons, not because we’re New Yorkers)
  • at least one large span set with cable running through
  • tie line for making yourself crazy when you tangle it swagging equipment out and at least one pulley
  • swivel(s)
  • duct or electrical tape to safety the gate on carabiners or keep them from flipping when swagged (also great for marking/identifying your equipment, or for shutting up that obnoxious guy who keeps asking you if you’ve ever tried trapeze naked)
  • assorted clips of varying sizes come in handy here and there
  • a small flashlight on a cord or a head lamp (you’ll look so cool)

Thems the basics! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you don’t need a rig bag, you need a rigger. Start educating yourself TODAY – your life depends on it. Happy dangling, mah peeps!

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