By Annika Egerstedt
During the Covid shutdowns, there has been an influx of home rigs. A home rig seems like a good idea to keep up strength and tricks or even to get some extra practice in between classes. However, if done incorrectly it becomes dangerous real quickly. I have a home rig and through my process of building my aerial space, as well as gaining my teacher certification, I have learned tips about rigging and safety I would like to share with anyone considering getting a home rig. An at-home rig is not right for everyone, and should be done with safety in mind. I am not a professional rigger nor am I claiming to be but I have taken a beginner rigging course through Circus Arts Institute. I would highly recommend taking a rigging training course before getting a rig. Here are some advice I give to my students when they ask about home rigs:
Knowledge: Before getting a rig, I recommend being at an intermediate level on a piece of equipment. At this point the aerialist is fairly familiar with the apparatus, and with their capabilities, and is less likely to do something they aren’t ready for. In addition to knowing aerial, I strongly recommend having at least a base knowledge of rigging. This way the aerialist will know how to check equipment and retire it when needed. All pieces of home equipment should be checked regularly.
Rigging: For any home rigging system, I always recommend using a portable rig, as it is built to withstand the force used during aerial. Portable rigs are specifically designed for aerial use and are a very safe option for a home rig. There is also the option to establish a rig point in a home or building structure. This is by far the more expensive option and leaves room for more potential flaws. The act of building a rig or adding one to a preexisting structure requires a structural engineer to ensure that the structure will be able to withstand certain levels of force, which are many times the weight of the aerialist. Creating a rig in an existing structure also requires a professional rigger to install the actual point.
Rigging from trees may seem like an accessible way to rig outdoors but even the most sturdy looking trees could be unsafe. It is practically impossible to know the weight limit and strength of a tree and even the smallest amount of force could end in disaster. Sudden Limb Drop Disease is when a perfectly healthy looking tree cuts off the nutrients of a branch and eventually drops that part of the tree. This means that not only is the aerialist falling but in a worst case scenario, a tree branch is coming down with them. It is also unwise to rig from places such as bridges, signs, or any other structure that hasn’t been inspected and approved by a structural engineer. The direction and amount of force placed on a structure during aerial is not what most structures are designed for.
Other Equipment: To practice aerial safely at home, there must be a mat. I am a firm believer of the phrase “better safe than sorry.” A crash pad is the best option of mat for most occasions. I have seen several posts on social media where people use yoga or thin folding mats. This is not a safe alternative when doing aerial.
The quality of equipment is also essential to a safe aerial rig. There are several different websites that sell quality rigging, my favorite being Aerial Essentials. Make sure to do extensive research about what is best for each specific type of rigging, and ask your studio or trainer where they buy their equipment. Amazon is not a good source for aerial equipment. The Safety in Aerial Arts Facebook group has a lot of information and advice on how to safely do aerial and is a good source for information.
Finally, there should never be an occasion where someone is performing aerial without someone else present in case of an emergency. This goes for at home rigs as well as studio learning.
I hope this is helpful to anyone considering at home equipment. Practicing aerial at home is a great way to keep up conditioning but should be done with caution, and only by experienced aerialists. Please consult a trainer before beginning the process of getting a home rig.