How Is This an Internship?

Written by Marc Thompson

 - Bern - Switzerland -

Sometimes all you need to do is ask, and something that seems unlikely may actually turn out to be really easy. I study English and Spanish literatures and languages in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland. In order to complete my studies in English, I needed to spend some time working or studying abroad, which lead to me doing the logical thing: I asked a random internet stranger with a cool looking slackline business if he wanted a free intern for two months over the summer; and he said YES! To my surprise the University also thought it was ok.

Evening night at Smith Rock. Photo by Nick Braun.

Evening night at Smith Rock. Photo by Nick Braun.

Before I left, I powered through two weeks of manically finishing two papers and threw a small party at my place. I made for the airport on the 22nd of June 2015 with two backpacks filled with gear and  stoke and arrived at the Redmond, OR airport where Jason picked me up at 11pm and drove me to the Bivy at Smith Rock. During that first night curled up in my sleeping bag under the stars, I stared into the milky way, unable to sleep and wondered what I was getting myself into.

The first day, Jason showed a very jet-lagged version of myself through the bivy camping area, around Smith Rock and the SlackTech office. Along the way I laughed at some ridiculously big trucks (compared to cars in Europe), instantly forgot all the names of the people I met and quickly learnt that 100 degrees fahrenheit means HEAT. Reflecting back, I still think the trucks were too big, but the strangers turned into friends and the heat, well, it was still there but bearable. The community in and around Smith Rock and Central Oregon deserves its own book and I would never be able to do it justice in this article. I am going to limit myself to a summary of the events that summer. After all, the work was fulfilling, the community was unique and adventures with highlines, ropeswings, spacenets and travels kept me occupied.

Marc at Steel Head Falls.

Marc at Steel Head Falls.

The density of highlines at Smith Rock is incredible, roughly 35 of various lengths. So many lines are already established yet there are still some open projects. There are other areas close by that I never even got to experience. At Smith, you can get to almost every line in under an hour from the Bivy, which is incredible when you come from rigging mostly alpine projects in the Swiss Alps. Of course it is important to factor in the classic half hour to hour delay from the Bivy while everyone lounges around the tables and cars while absent mindedly collecting gear and food. Seems to be a universal trait of slackliners all across the globe. Maybe it’s also the price of living in such a highline hotspot. The midday heat also meant that every project required carrying large amounts of water and mainly crushing lines in the mornings and evenings. Lunch time was often spent under the tarp at the Bivy or at Redpoint - Climbers Supply, drinking a cold beer or kombucha.

The local hang out for coffee, beer and gear.

The local hang out for coffee, beer and gear.

Summer time full moons in Central Oregon is when magic happens. Suddenly everyone is full of stoke! After helping Alex, the Swingmaster, rig I had my first midnight ropeswing. Alex also showed me how to aid-climb a bolt ladder after dark, which went surprisingly smooth. With perfect nighttime temps and enough light from the moon, it’s no wonder everyone gets so rallied up.

Apart from all the beautiful highlines the community was the main highlight of the stay. In the evenings the more permanent residents of the Bivy hung out with the random climbers and vacationers staying the night. They talked, made plans for projects and introduced each other to wisdoms from the dirtbag life. One such piece of wisdom involves massaging each other with an electric car buffer (Who’s in for a buffing!?). The greasy old coleman stove produced countless burrito concoctions and… No... mostly burritos. Bend has a lively Acro-Yoga/slackline/awesome stuff community that is so nice to hang out and be involved with. The hours spent with these people flew by too quickly and there were many moments where I would have loved to extend my stay longer. I had planned to experience the life in and around Smith for just 8 short weeks.

 
 

Luckily Jason also had two “excursions” lined up, both officially for business reasons. Firstly, we drove eight hours North to Bellingham, WA and I got to experience Seattle traffic, one of the more underwhelming experiences if I may say so. We got some inspiration in the park where Adam Burtle filmed many of his slackline instructional videos. While in Bellingham, we stayed in the house of one of Jason’s old college friends. It was a very nice change from my small tent at the Bivy and we managed to squeeze in a 330’ foot midline over the sea in Bellingham. Said midline involved driving past a bunch of “questionable” signs. Our cover was probably broken when I crossed the small cove with a leaky, yellow inflatable dinghy that kept me spinning in circles. And definitely when the wind made the line go all WUBBA WUBBA before I attached some wind dampeners. After powering ourselves out on the line we derigged and then went to geek out big time at the Samson Rope factory. A perfect day!

Access vehicle for the day.

Access vehicle for the day.

The second trip was to Salt Lake City, UT where the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow took place, the largest outdoor retail show in the States. I basically had 90% of the time off and spent the 3 days checking out the endless amount of booths and gear. Armed with my “Athlete” badge and highline pics, I aimed to collect as much free stuff as possible. It was a nice peek into the commercial workings of the outdoor industry. However, the diet of energy bars, free mini-pancakes and other food samples, coupled with sleeping in a different place every night somewhere hidden away was not the healthiest route to go. Oh yeah we were in the back of Jason’s Prius. After the 12 hour drive back (roughly the equivalent of driving from Switzerland where I live, to my grandparents place in Spain), my tent at the Bivy felt luxurious in comparison to the cramped quarters of the car. I was captivated by the vastness of the landscape and the straight as an arrow highway taking us through the middle of nowhere. We were crushing the speed limits and jamming out to “Can’t Feel my Face” and “Lean On” every time they were played on the radio.

Over a cove in Bellingham, Wa.

Over a cove in Bellingham, Wa.

Overall, I found a spot in my heart for Smith Rock and the people that give life to the park and its surroundings. I hope to return, explore more and head out on new adventures. My time there flew by a lot faster than I would have hoped, and saying goodbye was harder than I could have imagined that night when I set foot on the dry soil at Redmond Airport for the first time. The last evening turned into a small party at RedPoint, with some double buffer action and lovely people. Nick Braun, a local photographer you should totally check out, gave me large prints of photos he took of me on “Temple of the Winds”. Probably the most beautiful line at the park, I luckily got to rig and walk just before I left. Everyone present at the gathering signed one of the posters and I tearily left for the Bivy around midnight to shower and get a short amount of sleep, before heading to the airport with Jason around half past four in the morning.

Marc on Temple of the Winds. Photo by Nick Braun.

Marc on Temple of the Winds. Photo by Nick Braun.

A Message from SlackTech: Marc was a tremendous help during his time with us. We appreciate and respect him for all the work he did and the energy he brought. After all, his internship involved living in a campground, adventuring constantly and helping us develop and produce much of the content in the first round of our Tech Articles.

Thank you for all your hard work Marc, you are truly a friend.


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