Perspectives: In Their Own Words: Kieran Blood: ‘One Inch from Flying’

You’ve probably seen Kieran. Whether he’s slacklining, juggling, fire spinning, or unicycling, he’s not hard to spot. Here, Kieran talks about his hobbies, how he got into them, and why he continues to add to his laundry list of skills.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.    

Interview by Pema Baldwin. 

Photo courtesy of Kieran Blood. 

I’ve got a pretty chaotic family. Four siblings: one older, two girls in the middle, and then one youngest brother. It’s just chaos. We have two dogs. We recently got another one the day I left home, so we have two golden retrievers. One’s named Apple, who’s fifteen, and then we got another one named Kiwi, so we’ve got two fruit named dogs. It’s pretty awesome.

My sister goes to Cal. I took a gap year and she didn’t, so we’re in the same grade now, and then my brother… I’m pretty sure he’s alive, but I think he’s in India. I haven’t heard from him in like a month and a half, but I’m pretty sure he’s alive. Then the two youngest ones live at home. My dad works a bunch — he’s a doctor. He’s kinda out there a little bit.

He went hiking this summer. Didn’t invite me, and I was kind of mad, but whatever. He went to Yosemite, and he’s like, ‘I’m gonna hike from Yosemite to Bishop or Mount Whitney.’ And he’s like, ‘I’m just gonna hike for like 10 days by myself. It’ll be good.’ And so I think he takes a bus up or he hitchhikes up, and he goes to Yosemite. Then he starts hiking, and two days later he gets pneumonia. You’re two days in and you have pneumonia — you have a whole lot of miles left. But he just kept hiking for seven more days and like a hundred miles.

His big idea is mind over matter. If he needs to get something done, he’ll get it done, even if his body is suffering. Hiking a hundred miles with pneumonia is questionable business for sure… 

I’m from Hermosa Beach in LA. It was awesome. Living really close to the beach — having a lot of beach energy. Every summer I do this junior lifeguard camp. Did that for nine years. We’d always win the sand-snowman building contest. It was sand castles, but snowmen. Every winter my family and I would go and we’d get most unique or Hermosa’s favorite. It was our title.

I saw people at the beach on slacklines doing flips off them. I was like, ‘Aw, that’s so dope.’ And then went to REI and got one. That was the start of my slack life.

I started slacklining five years ago at the beach because it’s on sand, and it’s so nice to fall on. Got a lot of practice there. During summers that was the thing to do, and then I met the right people to try highlining for the first time.

I started highlining two years ago when I was 18. That was terrifying, but also I spent so much time looking forward to it from slacklining that I couldn’t let myself give up. I would just go and batter my body on the highlines when I was getting started, and that just made me good really fast.

I have over a dozen slacklines, which is ridiculous. I worship slack lines, you know? It’s my religion sort of (laughs).

I went to Telluride — I think during block break two — with Logan and Mar, and we went to a gathering — there’s a lot of highline gatherings around the country. So there was this one in Telluride, and basically that means there’s anywhere between maybe four and ten lines and a whole bunch of high liners — all these people that you’ve met in the past and will meet in the future and see again. It’s a really cool community of people from around the state. But there was this one line that was fine as long as there was a line directly behind it… So there’s a highline facing one way off this pinnacle thing, and then there’s a highline attached to the same set of bolts going the opposite way.

So we found that when somebody was on both lines, nothing would happen, and it was static, and safe, and bomber, but we found that if someone wasn’t on the behind line, the rock would move whenever you whipped. So trees move — that’s a normal thing, but rocks don’t move. So if you’re on this line and there’s no one on the other line, it would move about a half inch, they said. So they’re like, ‘Someone needs to test this out and make sure this is okay.’ I volunteered immediately, and was like, ‘Sick. All these people are gonna watch me highline to make sure it’s safe, and it’s going to be super questionably safe.’

They were telling me, ‘Bounce it as much as you can, and then jump off, and try to get the rock to move as much as it can.’ So of course I did that, and it was sketchy now thinking about it, but at the time I was like, ‘Ah, it’ll be okay.’ That was probably like 50 meters or so up.

There’s this motto called ‘super good enough.’ This main educator was like, ‘You don’t have to be a perfectionist for setting these things up. It just has to be super good enough.’ So that’s kind of a motto of mine for rigging. It’s trusting your gear and trusting the system, and don’t stress out too much about it. 

There’s been so many triumphant moments. There’s this thing in highlining where you have a record for how far you’ve walked. When you first start you’re lucky to walk, like, 20 meters — everything’s in meters because that’s how it is. And so I’ve been pushing this for the past two years, and at the end of the summer I had 150 meters walking a full highline without falling, and that was huge. Then over block break, right around Thanksgiving, we rigged a bunch of highlines bigger than that in Moab. So it was like another gathering, but pseudo, and we had a 180 meter line, a 220 meter line, and a 240 meter line.

Bigger lines than I’ve ever been on. I got there and was totally in awe of all these awesome people that are highline famous, and then the next morning after practicing that day, I woke up — slept right by the highline — and got on the 180 meter line, crossed it the whole way there and back without falling, and then had a 20 minute break and got on 220; crossed that the whole way without falling, and then there was that 240 meter line, and I sent it. So I got three PRS in one day, and it was before noon. It was just such a huge day for me.

There’s so many aspects I love. The main one is the beauty because once you’re in those spaces you’re in places where people haven’t been before. Then there’s a lot of creative problem solving for rigging lines. A lot of it’s like, ‘This might not work exactly how you want it to, but we’ll be able to adjust and adapt to the equipment we have.’ And then you’re also pushing yourself — always sending a farther line. I sent a 330 meter line over new years, and it was such a gratifying feeling. And then there’s also the community, which is probably the coolest part. It’s this niche group of people from all different walks of life, but everybody has certain things in common. If I meet someone who likes highlines and is part of the community, we’ll immediately both be able to juggle and pass, or we’ll both know how to do fire spinning, or unicycling — all these weird, niche, circus-like sports I guess. They all kind of line up with the highline mentality. We learn things for the sake of learning them, and practice for the sake of getting better. 

There’s two feelings up there. If I’m trying to send a line where I’m dialed in, there’ll be a little bit of anxiety and I’ll just be looking at a single point, and my focus won’t waver. I’ll just think about getting from here to there — where my arms are, what’s going right, what’s going wrong. That’s if I’m really trying to focus, but if I’m trying to have fun, I’m looking at people watching me or the land below, seeing how far I can push it until I fall. 

It’s like playing. Every time I highline I end up dancing for a period of time. It’s your space when you’re there, so you can use it to either focus or appreciate. 

One of my favorite phrases for highlining is ‘One inch from flying’ because it’s a one inch piece of webbing, and you’re occupying the space where birds are, which I think is cool. 

You’re free, but you’re also safe because you always wear a harness. Some people think the ultimate freedom is not having a harness, but that seems less free to me. When you’re hundreds of feet in the air, so few things from your reality have any importance at all. It really forces you to be in the present. 

I really want to learn how to paraglide. I hope to take highlining one step beyond, and learn to fly. I feel like that’ll complete me (laughs).


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