The three-time world champion braves the heat, winds and heights to complete a 3,646-metre crossing between Italy and Sicily on a tightrope just 1.9cm wide.

Slackline athlete and Hollywood film stuntman Jaan Roose has made history by becoming the first person to cross the Strait of Messina in Italy on foot. The strait, which separates Sicily from mainland Italy, was crossed using the longest slackline ever built, measuring 3,646 metres. Roose completed the crossing in almost three hours, beating the current world record distance of 2,710 metres. However, a fall in the last 80 metres prevented him from officially setting a world record.

Jaan Roose and the challenge of the Messina Strait

This is a narrow channel in the Mediterranean Sea, dividing the Calabria region of Italy from the island of Sicily. For centuries, the idea of crossing this strait seemed as mythical as the legends described in Homer’s Odyssey, where the sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis created dangerous whirlpools in these waters. However, Roose set out to turn this dream into reality by walking a tightrope between two iconic steel structures, the Messina Pylons.

“The Messina Strait has historical and cultural significance dating back thousands of years, as well as incredible natural beauty. Combined with the variable weather conditions and strong sea currents, it offered a unique and significant opportunity to push the limits of the tightrope,” explains Jaan Roose.

The journey began on Wednesday 10 July 2024, in the mainland town of Villa San Giovanni, Roose ascended to the anchor point at Santa Trada, a 265-metre tower that exceeds the height of Italy’s tallest skyscraper. At 08:45 am, he stepped onto the tightrope to begin his traverse. This feat covered a distance greater than 30 football pitches on a strip of woven fabric just 1.9 cm wide.

After walking the lowest section of the tightrope, 100 metres above the water, Roose began the final leg by ascending 130 metres to the Sicilian Lighthouse Tower, arriving at 11:42am. However, with just 80 metres to go, Roose fell, invalidating a new world record under the sport’s rules, which require a complete no-fall traverse.

Messina Strait

Jaan Roose, 32, a native of Estonia, is a three-time slackline world champion and the only athlete to have completed a double somersault backwards on a tightrope. He has achieved numerous records and world firsts, including the world’s longest slackline on a single building in Qatar. Her skills have been showcased in Hollywood films and live performances, such as in Assassin’s Creed (2016) and Wonder Woman 1984 (2020). However, the Messina Crossing represented his most demanding challenge.

Slackline: a sport of balance and extreme challenge

Slackline is a sport that involves balancing on a narrow, flat band of fabric, usually made of Sk99 fibres, stretched between two anchor points. This activity requires exceptional balance, concentration and coordination. Highlining, which involves walking at high altitude, is the pinnacle of the sport. During the three-hour trek, Roose required not only extraordinary balance and concentration, but also exceptional strength and endurance to withstand winds of up to 38 km/h and temperatures of up to 28°C.

Roose prepared for more than six months for the Messina Strait, with a rigorous regimen of mental and physical training at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre in Austria, meticulous equipment testing and extensive practice on a training tightrope in Estonia. A team of eight, including Roose, installed the tightrope with a helicopter carrying a guide rope, marking the longest tightrope installation in history.

After his incredible feat, Roose declared: “I feel ‘Jaantastic’, I’m super happy, a little tired and exhausted, but guys, I made history! I walked 3.6 kilometres across the Strait of Messina! It was a long walk, full of surprises from start to finish, I had some difficulties, but the weather was good! I was expecting more wind.

Jaan Roose’s crossing of the Messina Strait was broadcast live on both Red Bull TV and Red Bull’s YouTube channel, offering exclusive footage and behind-the-scenes footage of Roose’s incredible highlining journey, showcasing his preparation, challenges and triumphs in this historic feat.