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Asking when zip lining originated is like asking when we first used a swing. Well, no not really, because the first swinging man was definitely Tarzan, we at least know that for sure. Zip lining’s history is a bit more hazy however. Sheesh, even how to spell it is a bit hazy; to hyphen or not to hypehn?
Humans have been using lines to transport people and supplies across difficult terrain for centuries, and while wildlife biologists seem to get the most street cred for starting the trend of using gravity to help get themselves from tree to tree, let us not overlook the early urban zipliners of England. Steeplejacks in the 17th century would slide down a long, angled line after they were done with their lofty repairs.
In the 1900’s a mountain climbing technique was developed called Tyrolean traverse, where a climber pulls himself across a rope over a ravine using a pulley, which, if you’re a zip liner, really looks like a lot of work. You’d be right, and at some point they figured out that if the startingside of the rope was higher than the the end, it made life, shall we say, easier?
Okay, but the Biologists really made it famous.
One such intrepid entrepreneur, Donald Perry, grew tired of climbing up and down the 20 story high trees (which is about 24 Smart car lengths) and rigged up 1,200 feet of white polyester rope in the Costa Rican trees, then proceeded to “zip” across the line. This feat put him front and center on the cover of Smithsonian magazine in 1979.
In the 80’s MacGyver even got in on the action by featuring a few zipline scenes in the famous mullet TV series.
And if you’re old enough to know what a mullet is, then chances are you remember the 1992 Sean Connery movie Medicine Man, which started folks thinking there might be money to be made in commercial zip line courses.
These commercial courses didn’t really get off the ground until the early 2000’s, but once they did, we’ve seen a steady increase in zip lining popularity.
If you have ever forked out upwards of seventy buck-a-roos for a ride on one of these commercial zip lines, you know the rush, you know first hand why it’s popular, you know how fun it is, you also know you can’t afford to do this every weekend. Enter the backyard zipline! For about the same price of an average family to take a zip line tour (one day), that same family could be enjoying their own backyard adventure throughout the whole year (for many years). #WhatsInYourBackyard
Oh, but wait, if you wanted your own zipline in 2004 you had to piece it together from various vendors. The industrial grade backyard zip line kit wasn’t created until 2005, but that’s another story for another time…