A monolith. A slackliner. A Humboldt connection?

Before we get to the damn point, right off the top, let’s define one term possibly in question. For Humboldt residents who steer well clear of the more whimsical and free-spirited pockets of the county — your Arcata Community Forest, your College Cove, for example — you might not have ever encountered the art of slacklining. What it be, you ask? Great. Slacklining is a sport for people with enviable abs who bounce up and down on a thin, stretchy nylon rope stretched between two points (preferably sturdy redwood trees). Slackliners do this for fun, exercise and to impress each other. LoCO has never tried it, but it looks incredibly difficult, so we probably never will.

If you aren’t hip to slacklining, don’t feel bad. The skill is obscure enough that when Madonna featured a slacklining performance as part of her 2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show, major publications (New York Times, Slate, TMZ) rushed to explain the practice to their mystified readers. The toga-clad performer who Madonna chose to introduce slacklining to the masses is a man named “Sketchy” Andy Lewis. (See a clip below.) So important was Andy’s widely viewed contribution to the sport, it is mentioned in the “History” section of the slacklining Wikipedia page. Good job, Andy.


Andy had a fun moment in the sun

Another reason you may choose to care about Andy is that during his moment of glory, when he was giving interviews to folks around the world, he also spoke with a young reporter writing for Humboldt State University’s student magazine. He did this because he is a 2008 HSU graduate (Recreation Administration). Hey, the Times-Standard got him too!

Geez! Why are we talking about this, LoCO! OK! OK! We bring all this up because this week Andy Lewis is very famous again! You know that silly Utah monolith story that lots of people in your timeline shared because it blissfully had nothing to do with Trump and/or COVID? What a mystery that was! Yeah, that thing is gone now, for better or worse. And this week we learned that one of the people who helped remove it is none other than Humboldt grad Sketchy Andy Lewis! Hooray (for us, kinda)!

These days Lewis is a BASE jumping guide in southern Utah who holds strong “Leave No Trace” beliefs when it comes to exploring the Southwest’s vast expanses. He maintains a YouTube account, “Mr. Slackline,” where he posted video of himself and some friends dismantling the world-captivating metal structure, loading it into a wheel barrow and hauling the thing off under cover of night. Observe:


How does this group justify depriving the world of this selfie-worthy oddity? One of Lewis’ friends, Sylvan Christensen, who was also involved in the covert monolith extraction, took to his Instagram account to explain the thinking behind the operation. In short, their reasoning was that doesn’t go there:

“We removed the Utah Monolith because there are clear precedents for how we share and standardize the use of our public lands, natural wildlife, native plants, fresh water sources, and human impacts upon them. The mystery was the infatuation and we want to use this time to unite people behind the real issues here— we are losing our public lands— things like this don’t help.

Let’s be clear: The dismantling of the Utah Monolith is tragic— and if you think we’re proud— we’re not. We’re disappointed. Furthermore, we were too late. We want to make clear that we support art and artists, but legality and ethics have defined standards— especially here in the desert— and absolutely so in adventuring. The ethical failures of the artist for the 24” equilateral gouge in the sandstone from the erecting of the Utah Monolith, was not even close to the damage caused by the internet sensationalism and subsequent reaction from the world.

This land wasn’t physically prepared for the population shift (especially during a pandemic). People arrived by car, by bus, by van, helicopter, planes, trains, motorcycles and E-bikes and there isn’t even a parking lot. There aren’t bathrooms— and yes, pooping in the desert is a misdemeanor. There was a lot of that. There are no marked trails, no trash cans, and its not a user group area. There are no designated camp sites. Each and every user on public land is supposed to be aware of the importance and relevance of this information and the laws associated with them. Because if you did, anyone going out there and filming the monolith and monetizing it without properly permitting the use of the land— would know that’s an offense too.”

Area law enforcement have stated that they are probably not going to investigate the sculpture’s removal. So that, likely, is that. Goodbye, monolith. 

All that to say, this is the small way in which the Utah monolith craziness related to Humboldt. That’s it. There are more important things happening today but LoCO thought you might like to know about this.

Sketchy Andy Lewis is a colorful guy.