PSA: love your rigger

aerial silks performer
TL;DR: Don’t rig your own shit.

More importantly, make your rigger love you.

In all seriousness… Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing a lot about safety concerns to do with rigging. A lot of my circus students are kids, and they love to tell me that they wish they had silks / trapeze / hoop in their bedrooms. Some of them go as far as to tell me their parents are going to rig silks in their homes. Parents (and aspiring aerialists who are old enough to make their own decisions): please, don’t do it.

Here’s the thing. Silks are pretty easy to tie into a knot and hang off of a ceiling, or a tree, or a swingset. That doesn’t mean you should.

Now, bear with me. I’m going to get a little nerdy here.

basic swing on a set of aerial straps generates a load of five times your bodyweight. A more dynamic drop on aerial silks can generate closer to six to ten times your bodyweight. OSHA recommends a safety factor of ten times on top of any load (though most aerialists go for a safety factor of five).

That means, if you were being conservative, you’d want something rated to handle 100 times your bodyweight. Realistically, an industry standard in circus for an aerial point is about 5,000 pounds.

The average eyebolt ceiling hook is meant to hold a 5-pound potted plant.

Please, please do not hang off of your ceilings at home, or trees in your backyard, or the railing off your balcony.

The person whom I trust to do all my rigging is my future husband. I figure if he loves me enough to want to spend the rest of his life with me, he’s probably invested enough to want to keep me alive. (Okay, this is probably the most questionable logic in this post. Let’s not get carried away with statistics of spousal murders, please.) At the very least, if my rigging fails and I end up paralyzed, he’s going to be the one spoon-feeding me till I die, and it’s probably safe to assume he doesn’t want to go there.

In addition to his desire not to kill me (and, more importantly), he knows what he’s doing. He reads about knots in his spare time. He gets excited about ropes and carabiners. He does math on loads and calculates backup systems and doesn’t just buy the cheapest equipment he can find off of Amazon. He refuses to rig equipment, even if he or the performer have to go unpaid, if he believes it will be unsafe, because (in case anyone needs me to spell this out) being able to use your legs for the rest of your life is more important than earning a few hundred bucks.

That’s the kind of rigger you want.

Yes, it would be awesome to be able to train more out of your home. Yes, aerial cradles are comfortable and I’d love to curl up and read my book in them. But none of those things are worth risking injury for — injury that could preclude you from training at all.

Great references:

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