How Do You Slow Down When Ziplining

by | Jul 22, 2022 | Zipline

Zipline experiences are becoming increasingly popular around the world, each of them different. Climate, forest type, man-made structures, tree-based platforms, and engineering feats all contribute to the unique operation of each experience. At Rotorua Canopy Tours, safety is paramount to our operation, including the system used to slow you down as you arrive on a platform.

Do I have to brake myself in?


Nope! As a guest visiting the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve, you simply have one thing to do – relax and enjoy the beautiful native forest as you zip below, through and above the canopy. Our highly skilled guides are tasked with the hard work, using their knowledge and equipment to keep you safe as you come to the end of each zipline.


But how does a guide slow themselves down?

It’s quite simple really, each guide is issued with high-quality leather gloves, and they use the natural incline of the zipline connecting to the end platform, gravity and their hands to brake themselves in. They’ll then take care of you as you arrive, just using a few more tools!


What does a guide need to know before they can brake me in?

Each guide is equipped with extensive training and knowledge around zipline speed (tension, angle, and slack of the cable), zipliner features (weight, body position), trolley bearing speed and the natural environment (wind direction and strength). It’s a rigorous training program of almost 3- 4 weeks and a minimum of 100 tours (300 – 400 hours) before the art of braking is mastered. Some guides become so experienced in braking; they learn to tell the speed of a zipliner by the sound their trolley is making as they come down the zipline. How cool is that?

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    How does the guide actually brake me in?


    At Rotorua Canopy Tours, we use a variety of braking methods by combining guide knowledge and braking equipment. Most of this equipment is manual, but for some of our larger ziplines (on the Ultimate Canopy Tour), mechanical equipment is needed too.

    On each tour, you’ll have a Lead Guide and a Tail Guide. The Lead Guide is responsible for braking you in to each platform safely. Most of the time they will use the manual braking method – this involves a hardened plastic block that moves up and down the zipline wire, via two pulleys on each end of a rope loop. The plastic block is made to gently collide with your trolley as you come closer to the platform, the guide adds friction by squeezing the rope and this slows you down to a safe speed to arrive on the platform. Once you’ve stopped, the guide will take hold of your lanyards that are attached to your trolley (this will stop you from rolling back out onto the zipline again) and you’ll be asked to stand and walk up the landing ramp of the platform with your guide.

    For the bigger, faster ziplines on the Ultimate Tour, our guides need a bit of mechanical support to brake you in. On our longest zipline (400m tandem), speeds can get above 80km/h for the average adult, and we love to encourage you and your friends to race each other, but we also love to ensure that you are safe too. We helicoptered in a couple of massive wooden beams, constructed a massive platform with steel fabrication, guy wires and additional supports, then installed our usual manual braking system, but added in the backup mechanical system known as a ZipStop – designed by Headrush Technologies, for the heavier and faster zipliners. Adding an extra line to make this a tandem zipline also meant that the Lead Guide would have to stop two people from rolling back into the middle at the same time – that seemed like a big ask when the lines are a few metres apart, so we installed a nifty capture device that clamps over your trolley and suspends you above the platform until you are assisted down to the platform by your guide.


    What happens if I don’t make it to the end of the zipline?

    After a little trial and error in the early days of operation in 2012, we figured out that simply adding a loop of green rope underneath the plastic block (not sure why we made it green, in a green forest…but we did), each zipliner can grab this rope loop when instructed and it’ll stop them from rolling back into the middle of the zipline. Pretty genius, right? If you find yourself in this situation, your job is simply to hold that green rope and the Lead Guide will pull you into the platform safely! Not making it to the end of the zipline can happen to anyone for several reasons, the most common being our lighter folks don’t get quite enough speed to make it or if being a human parachute is your style, you can also risk not making it.

    Our guides can tell if you are arriving a little slower than they’d like, they will have mentioned in the pre-flight safety brief how to use the green rope and if on the smaller side they will demonstrate the fastest flight position. Guides can also pull another trick out of the bag called “monkeying the wire” by weighting the wire at the bottom end of the zipline it will reduce the incline at the end of the zipline meaning you maintain a better speed to finish the zipline at and safely arrive to the platform.


    What happens if I miss the green rope too?

    Don’t fear! If you don’t make it and can’t or forget to grab the rope, you’ll be just fine – in fact you are about to witness some of the best views of the tour! You’re likely to slowly roll back towards the lowest point of the zipline and come to a stop. If you’re feeling brave, that’ll be your chance to carefully grab your phone, GoPro or camera and take some photos and throw the hashtag #stuckonazipline onto those social media posts (just keep a tight grip, there’s a slim chance of finding your device in the dense forest below if you drop it). If that feels too risky, just relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery from the middle of the line! Your guide will swiftly be out to rescue you, they’ll earn their keep and put in a bit of hardwork to tow you back into the platform.

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    Who designed this and how do I know it’s really safe?


    If the hundreds of tours, highly trained guides, tried and tested methods and the mechanical support of our braking systems aren’t quite sealing the deal for you yet, be rest assured that we have had the experts involved in this from the beginning. Our course and system designer is one of the owners of Rotorua Canopy Tours and is a highly experienced structural engineer, especially in zipline design and construction. We consistently pass safety audits, perform safety checks on all aspects of the braking systems regularly and ensure everything is replaced well before it is worn to ensure that each piece of equipment is always in working order. To top it off our number one core value is safety. All staff coming into the business from the start are pushed in all ways to live and breathe a safety-first culture.

    Hopefully I’ve answered all your questions about slowing down while you’re ziplining with us! We can’t wait to have you on tour to take care of you as you fly throughout our native forest and always welcome any other questions you might have about safety or anything else.

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