Friedi Kühne is a holder of multiple world records in highlining. He balances above gorges and waterfalls on a narrow tightrope. But feels no fear in the process.
The adrenaline is running all the way to his fingertips. His whole body is tense; his senses are heightened. He holds his breath and takes the first step. As of now, perfection is the only option. That is because there is an abyss hundreds of feet deep below him.
Only a 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide tightrope prevents him from falling into the depths – a slackline that spans to the other side of the gorge.
A safety device? Nonexistent. Friedi Kühne is a free solo highliner. World record holder. And incredibly brave.
Anyone who balances above deep gorges on a wobbly rope without a safety device must be crazy. What leads a young man and aspiring teacher to take such a risk? “At first sight, free solo seems like a case of all or nothing,” Friedi admits. But what looks like a suicide mission is in fact human precision in its purest form. Friedi has practiced the route many times and knows the line and the wind.
“You feel more alive than ever before.”
He only dares to cross if the conditions are perfect. The extreme athlete insists he is not world-weary – he has a different point of view: he does not consider free solo highlining to be dangerous. “I get on the highline with 100 percent conviction that nothing will happen to me,” Friedi emphasizes.
The Bavarian holds the world record for the longest free solo highline, the longest highline with a safety device, and the longest blindfolded highline crossing. The reward is always the same:
the flow – a state where the athlete merges with the line and forgets everything around them. Confronts themself. And in the end, receives a kick of endorphins: “You feel more alive than ever before.” Maximum self-belief, the freedom to continuously redefine limits, and the aspiration for absolute perfection make professional highliners – the team around Friedi Kühne – pioneers of their discipline. “We are only just discovering what is possible,” he says, promising many more unique activities in future.
“We are only just discovering what is possible.”
Photography | Mia Noblet