Vol De La Fantaisie

Text by Stephanie Peh
Photographs courtesy of Seb Montaz

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Frank A B
Hometowns (2008)

There might not be a word that accurately describes the feeling of standing at the edge of a skyscraper. The fear, the thrill and the risk of losing it all. The ground below your feet has disappeared and the mind starts to wonder, where would I land? How long would it take?

One cannot help but wonder if these things flow through the minds of Tancrède, Julien, and Antoine. They are the cast of Seb Montaz’s documentary, I Believe I Can Fly (Flight of the Frenchies). The film follows this team of highliners as they push their limits and live the adventure in various locations from a dramatic skyscraper to the magnificent Norwegian fjords and scenic cliffs. Highlining is a combination of climbing, slackline and tightrope walking. We see them jumping off cliffs, balancing on tight ropes suspended in the air (without a safety line at some points), and decorating the majestic views of nature with a sense of freedom and powerful stunts, making the life-threatening extreme sport seem effortlessly free and comforting.

Vol De La Fantaisie the skyliners highliners

There is something special about flying alongside nature, or to watch someone else do it. It is exhilarating to see a man somersault off a mountaintop and drop to the ground at a powerful speed. Or to witness their flight, as they float in between two mountains on nylon as tight as a g-string. The suspense is breathtaking and nerve-wrecking, as they thrust their feet first towards nothingness, carefully aligning them, step by step, face forward, arms stretched, thinking of balance as a trusty friend. This continues until they reach the end point, and finally, the look you see on their faces will change everything. It makes you want to leave it all behind to walk on a tight rope, jump off a mountain and feel larger than life.

They represent the freedom many seek, where living is as simple as laughing with friends, trusting each other, traveling together and discovering new settings for the next adventure to unfold. Outside this family of highliners, the characters have personal lives and families, but have come to realize that risk is part of the package, and it is absolutely necessary because it helps them to be better.

It takes a lot of perseverance and patience, as with all forms of skills, craft or sport. Then it takes courage and fear to make the walk or the jump spectacular.

Vol De La Fantaisie the skyliners highliners

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Tancrède Melet on his passion.

Hi Tancrède, please tell me more about yourself.

I am into everything and always looking for new ideas in my next adventure. After four years of working in the industry, I resigned from an engineering job to follow my quest for freedom. I started exploring outdoor sports and got hooked on slacklining, discovering high altitudes and realising that it is faster to jump off a cliff, rather than walk downhill.

My motto is to try everything, at least once.

Sounds like a good plan. What got you started on extreme sports?

I used to go climbing in an old school way with my parents. I have always been used to outdoors sports. I started paragliding back in 2003, climbing with a proper harness and equipment at the same time. I discovered highline in 2008, and then the mountaineering world. I always dreamt of base jumping after climbing a cliff, so I ended up doing it.

Right now, we try with friends to combine our skills, and I consider myself more a stunt man than a proper professional athlete. I guess what got me started on extreme sports is the seeking of pleasure, and to have a good time with friends.

Vol De La Fantaisie the skyliners highliners

Please tell us about your first experience.

We actually did our first highline together when we met Julien Millot, and some other friends. We heard that some climbing guides already did it and we thought it was a nice stupid thing to do, and we knew more or less how to walk a bit on a slackline on the ground. So we went to the cliff and just did it our way. Finally, Julien ended up going into highlining seriously and got addicted. We met some other people, and did projects together. Finally highlining became not something we did from time to time as an amusement, but more like a proper sport.

Read more in N˚4: Flight.