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Pushing The Line on discovery+ exclusive: Ari DeLashmutt on how the Highline will set you free

Ari DeLashmutt mid-air
Ari DeLashmutt mid-air. Pic credit: Ari DeLashmutt

The new streaming series Pushing The Line on the surface appears to show reckless younger folks temping gravity and fate.

However, closer examination reveals it is a spiritual and self-awareness journey wrapped up in an extreme sport.

495 Productions and SallyAnn Salsano, better known for reality shows chronicling the antics of colorful eastern seaboard types (Jersey Shore), has found a group of people drawn together by a united sense of purpose, up for a challenge, and exhilarated by every success.

One highliner, Ari DeLashmutt, has a zen-like attitude and deeply connected affinity for this sport that takes planning, luck, a rock-hard set of core muscles, and monkey-like agility.

DeLashmutt and the cast of this series know all too well that they have to fight to get into and stay in “the flow zone” to complete the task of walking a thin line with the wind and moving to reach the other side.

The only other option for them is an early death.

This extreme makes for a great reality docuseries that shows how this fine line of existence heightens all the emotions, the feelings, and the insight gleaned from such a daunting physical challenge. 

Highline life, what is it exactly?

It takes all the strength, mental focus, and a dollop of luck to attempt this sport. The art of walking a line is famously known from the Wallenda family exploits, but the new crop of highliners, slackliners, and trickliners are taking this ages-old sport and upping the ante.

And like Alex Honnold of Free Solo fame, the man who scales a sheer mountain face barefoot and without a safety net, there are real dangers, despite the fact they Highline with ropes attached in the event they fall. Not everyone makes it back on the line, and not everyone finishes the walk.

Prepare to feel anxious watching them do their thing. It’s an endeavor that flies in the face of human instinct. Heights and lack of stable ground are a nauseous mix for most of us. But, for the highliners, it’s the challenge they crave.

To make this series, 495 Productions spent 30 days following some of the world’s best highliners, including Andy Lewis, who helped invent the sport and appeared with Madonna at the Super Bowl. Along with Ari DeLashmutt, the series features world record holder Mia Noblet, Spencer Seabrooke, Andy Lewis, and Aaron Bray. 

Destinations on the show include Moab’s iconic Fruit Bowl and the Colorado Rockies.

Ari talked to Monsters & Critics about this series changing the nature of outdoor sports, and perhaps what might someday be considered an Olympic event if enough people adopt the sport itself. But based on the footage, it will likely always be considered a niche specialty where only the bravest tread.

Monsters & Critics: Pushing the Line takes balls and heart and other body parts. Was it a hobby that turned into a career?

Ari DeLashmutt: I don’t know. Is it a career?

M&C: Well, you’ve got a TV show

Ari DeLashmutt: Yes. Well, I don’t know if the podcast is predicated on the Highline game, but let’s see if we can get two more seasons out of this pony before we call it a career.

M&C: Fair enough. Well, what do you do other than highlining and other extreme type challenges?

Ari DeLashmutt: I’m a professional paragliding pilot. We do a lot of flying in the air, but that falls into that thing that you try to exclude from all these crazy action sports. I do photo and video work, and I write and have a podcast.

M&C: There’s a commonality that I gleaned when I watched the episodes. And, it seems that you have a unique approach to life and the afterlife. When did you know that you could compartmentalize fear and get in that flow state?

Ari DeLashmutt: Okay. A couple of things that come up from there with that. The first thing is I think it’s a misconception that we strip away fear. I think what ends up happening is we observe it. But what you asked was, when did I realize I could do that? 

And when you ask that, a very critical moment came into my mind. And that moment was, I was probably 19 years old, and I was skiing at Mount Bachelor, and I love to go off jumps on my skis. And I had wanted to do this trick called a switchback flip, going onto the jump backward, doing a backflip, and landing backward again. 

And I just dreamt of it ad nausea, and one day I tried to visualize myself doing it and said out loud the things I thought it would take to do that. I mustered up the courage. And I came into the jump, and I was terrified, and I was going backward and going fast. And there was an acute moment of I’m afraid, but am I going to do it?

It was like three, two, one, yes, or no. And I said, yes, I did the trick. So I came around, and I landed perfectly on my feet on, first try. And that is the moment, right there. 

That’s when I was like, oh, the fear thing doesn’t have to be a prison. It doesn’t have to be paralysis. It is something I can dance with. It doesn’t have to stop the show. And so ever since then, it’s been a dance with it. And it’s not that I eliminated there. I’ve never felt it.

No. It was a realization, and that’s a part of myself. Part of me that comes up, and that’s the part that I can dance with. I can play with it. I was probably 19.

M&C: You appear, I don’t know what your age is in relation to the rest of the cast, but you seem to be the most upbeat in disposition. And the least egocentric. Please talk about the people you’re on the show with and how you all came together.

Ari DeLashmutt: I reflected on this last night. I think I was the only one who spent a lot of time ruminating on what the actual challenge on a TV show would bring and set very deliberate intentions for how I wanted to show up for the 30 days. So I had a mantra. I said, I’m being paid to be patient, and I will Highline for free. 

And so as everyone else lost their f**king minds because the TV show was slow. And, and it was a slow lumbering machine of 75 people with bureaucratic hoops to jump through and all kinds of delays. So everyone lost their mind, but I knew it. So I went into it having expected that. 

I’m a filmmaker. I know what it takes to make a TV show. And so I was the only tension for myself, I think. And that was incredibly helpful. And I think that I tried my best to keep a positive perspective and empathize with other people, empathize with the executive producers, with the cameraman, with the audio guys, and become friends with them. So I knew what they were under. 

I knew that they were trying to do their job. And, other cast members just got infuriated that they had to slow down and be told what to do. So yeah, I think I just set myself up differently than anyone else on the show. So that’s probably what you noticed. As far as the size of my ego or the role it plays in my life. I don’t know. 

Maybe I was at some point more egocentric, and I’ve had to face that differently than other people and perhaps have had just a path that has led me to try to minimize the amount of harm and control that has in my life—coming together as a group? Well, my history and highlining is the history of my friendship with Spencer Seabrooke. So they are one and the same, literally. 

Like they started on the same day. The first person I ever saw Highline well was Spencer. And he did it with the leash tied to his ankle for the Canadian flag, tied around his neck, like a Cape. And he did that at Smith Rock state park. My hometown. I was born and raised right here. I met Spencer at the Smith Rock Highline Festival, where I did my first Highline ever.

And then soon after that, I went to Canada and we have been traveling around together ever since then. Spencer introduced me to Andy in 2015 and Moab when we went to the big Highline festival. 

And as Spencer says, we got super involved. Spencer and I were the rigging captains as we ranked a huge space net that totally broke the internet. That’s the one that Kevin, Ryan ended up getting married on three years later. We called that thug mansion.

I’ve known Mia (Noblet) since before she could stand up on a Highline and have had the enormous privilege of watching that unit flourish and become one of my closest friends. Mia and I have traveled to China and traveled all over highlining, and it’s been awesome.

So that’s kind of my closest crew on the show, the Moab crew and the Canadians, [but] the Colorado folk, I hadn’t known that much. I met those guys on the show, and Marcus Nelson I’ve known for a long time just for slacklining, and he’s a close friend of mine. So it was kind of a combination of really close friends from a long time and new faces.

M&C: When you’re descending on the line after you’ve rigged the line, you’ve staked out where you want to cross. What’s the most challenging part of the journey?

Ari DeLashmutt: Well, it’s changed so much over the years. I’ve been highlining for a long time at this point. I’m really good at it. And when I say that my body is highly trained, like the monkey in me can walk across the ropes so good. And so the beginning, the middle, the end, all of that, my body does that pretty well. So I don’t have to focus on one part much more than the others in that regard. 

When we’re on really long lines, it’s a much more emotional challenge than a physical one because I think the hardest part is probably like my pride or wanting to have a certain outcome. Yeah. That’s probably it. It’s like being tied to a certain outcome that I will cross a certain time, but I will do the number of crossings or that I won’t fall down or that I will feel a certain way. 

It’s like expectation management is probably the biggest thing because I find it when I find that my expectations actually stayed. There really is no limit to how far or quickly my body can walk. And the times that I fall down are because I’m wrestling against my expectation and my body is saying one thing, and my expectations are forcing my body to do something else. 

This is how I fell down on the world record line. I had just trying to go too fast, just slow down. And I’ve been on it for an hour and a half, and I just was getting tired. And instead of slowing down, I tried to speed up. And so I fell down.

M&C: I feel like people don’t understand the athleticism of what you all do. Is there anything you do when you’re not on the line to keep in the best shape to have those internal core and balance skills to stay on that rope?

Ari DeLashmutt: God, I wish I could tell you. I wish I’d trained. That would be great. That would be such a good idea, too, really wise. Really smart, but no, I can’t say that I don’t like to train. I don’t train for anything. I just do my sports, and I enjoy them. And I have so many different ones and on any given day. I might be paragliding. I might be highlighting today. 

I might be riding my mountain bike. I might be wakeboarding. I might be skiing. You know, there are just so many different things on any given day. The best thing to do is always changing. So I don’t really train. And honestly, I “off the couch” Highline so frequently. So I haven’t been on a Highline in a couple of months, then today I’m just going to go over, and I’ll get on it. If I have a big project coming up, I will emphasize just highlighting.

So this weekend we’re going camping, and we’re going to Highline all weekend. And that’s the kind of air-quotes training that I do. But the problem is I found that there’s nothing that will train you for highlining. It’s just such a specific activity. And even slacklining doesn’t really do it for me.

It just seems that not even normal slacklining will train my body for that kind of Highline. And then I’d just have to Highline, and the only way to train is just walk on it.

M&C: Best walk you’ve ever done. And the scariest you’ve ever done?

Ari DeLashmutt: I think the best walk I’ve ever done was right after I got a divorce, and I did a 370 meter Highline. And it was the best because I had a crazy experience of being behind my mind, seeing my thoughts arise and seeing my emotions arise, and seeing my life. And it led to some spontaneous epiphany in my relationships and how I am. So I had a huge relief emotionally after that Highline. So when I think about the best, I don’t know that I think that’s the most profound walk as far as profundity. 

As far as the scariest, I think the scariest walk has had one of those. We ended up on this very crumbly mountain. I’ve made a film about this called the crumbling tower of death on YouTube. The line almost broke, or we felt like the line failed. So we had kind of like a failure, an extension, and we’ve never had that before. 

It happened because rocks gateway that we were redirecting around and my, on the line at the time. And so it was a huge scare. And then, after we had that scare, the line was secure again, and I went out and walked it. So I think that was probably the scariest walk because I legitimately questioned the rig. 

The series is available to stream on discovery+.

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