Rigging 102: So you want to rig at home…

Last month we shared some basic information about safe rigging. Did you know that 98% of aerial students have wondered how they might be able to rig at home?* Before we talk about it though, I want to be very clear: Nothing in this article is meant to imply that the Monarca staff encourages ANYONE to rig at home. Nor does it mean that we think you, dear reader whose identity I don’t actually know, are ready to train without supervision. There are a myriad of very effective ways to supplement your studio training without a rigging point. We urge you to think carefully before you attempt home rigging – here are 10 great reasons why! But frankly, y’all are gonna do what y’all are gonna do, so we hope that sharing this will help you make informed decisions.

As you might have gathered, the first thing to consider is whether you’re ready. This isn’t just a safety concern (although that is the primary issue) – it’s also a technique question. Students who begin unsupervised training before they have good technique and muscle memory can accidentally engrain bad technique. And trust us, it’s 983x harder to unlearn something than it is to learn it properly in the first place.**

So how do you know if you’re ready? The easiest way to know this is to ask your instructors! Not to brag, but we’re pretty good at this stuff and we tend to be pretty conservative about telling students they’re ready to practice unsupervised, so if we think you’re good to go, you probably are. You might also be ready on one apparatus, but not another. Our assessment is based on many factors, including (but not limited to):

  • Do we feel you are capable of practicing safely without supervision? Do you pick up wraps and new skills quickly? Have you demonstrated the ability to untangle yourself?
  • Do you show good judgment in the air? Do you know when to come down (e.g., when you’re tired or unsure of a wrap)?
  • Is your technique and discipline good enough that you’re not going to develop bad habits?
  • Do you have the knowledge, self-awareness, AND self-control to accurately assess your own skill level and work within it? 100% of aerialists with a home rig have attempted Something Cool They Found*** on Instagram/TikTok/whatever else the kids are using these days. Your life could literally depend on whether you can accurately identify both the skill level required for Something Cool and if you are within that skill level. As you’ve probably learned at least once or twice from class, skills can be deceptive. They look easy but they’re actually not.

Ok, now for the real reason you’re reading this… I’m going to provide step-by-step instructions on how to install a rig point at home. Ready?

LOL jk, I’m absolutely not going to do that, did you even read last month’s article?! If not, please go back and read it now. Actually, even if you did, you should read it again. I’ll wait.

Great! Now that we’re on the same page about that, you should be able to guess what I’m going to say next: installing a hard rig point into your house is not a good idea. I’m not just being a spoilsport, I promise – your house is pretty strong, but it’s probably not going to hold up a car in addition to its other jobs (e.g., holding up you, your furniture, your pets, etc.). The roof might be strong too, but that strength already has jobs like snow loads in the winter.**** Most residential construction in the US needs reinforcement in order for you to install a rig point. That’s going to require a structural engineer and construction work, not to mention a qualified rigger to actually install the point correctly. (Here’s another source that goes more in depth about the various surfaces in your house.) Oh, and did I mention it can invalidate your homeowner’s insurance? So, yeah, it’s gonna get expensive.

Your best bet for training outside the studio is going to be a reputable, full-sized, freestanding rig such as the Ludwig rig  https://vvolfy.com/product/ludwig-quad-rig-16-20-feet/ (now made by Vvolfy) and the Circus Gear rig https://www.circusgearstore.com/store/p71/portable-aerial-rig.html#  (made by Todd Spiering, who also made most of the hard apparatuses for Monarca!). They each have their own pros and cons, which is a conversation for another day (if you’re really curious, please ask – many of us have been on both, since a few of us own the Circus Gear rig and Acoatzin’s rig is the Ludwig), but they’re both trusted and quite well regarded in the broader aerial community. Plus, you can take them with you if you ever move or want to go play somewhere else!

The rig is going to run you in the $2,500-$3,000 range, since material costs have been on the rise, but unless you happen to have knowledgeable friends with a very specific skillset who are willing to work for free, it’s still probably more cost effective than installing a point. You’ll also need a crash mat (usually $500+ and yes, I did mean you NEED one!) and of course, appropriately rated hardware and apparatus(es) (prices vary, but I’d ballpark at least $200 for this and more for a hard apparatus).

I do NOT recommend any of the smaller rigs. They’re ok for conditioning, but not much more than that. The low heights are pretty restrictive – they usually go to around 11ft, but then you have to take away at least a foot for rigging hardware and your crash mat. (For reference, Monarca’s points are at 14ft and we can clip directly into those points.) Not to mention, some aren’t even rated for spinning, let alone swinging – and while you might not swing intentionally… who among us hasn’t swung accidentally? Yes, they’re less expensive, but given that rigs are a significant investment, it’s better to save the $700 you were going to spend on a small rig and put it toward a big one. (Unless you’re secretly very wealthy! In that case, do what you want!)

Ok, so you have a rig and a mat and hardware and an apparatus that you may or may not have given a cute name. Here are five rules to live by:

  1. You need a rescue plan. This can be a pulley system ($$$$) or a ladder and some sharp scissors ($$). Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: you’ve never had to be rescued before, so you’re not really worried about it. Well, nobody ever needs to be rescued, until they do. And you don’t want to be stuck up there without a plan.
  2. Never train alone. We’re not talking about supervision. We’re just saying that another competent human (babies and well trained pets don’t count, even if your dog is literally Lassie) needs to be within easy earshot and they need to know what the rescue plan is. This is obviously for safety reasons. Even if this person doesn’t know the first thing about aerials and can’t untangle you, they can enact your rescue plan or heaven forbid, call 911.
  3. Inspect your sh*t regularly! You need to know how to inspect your equipment (ALL of it), and you need to do it regularly. We could do a whole other article on how to inspect rigging equipment and still not cover all of it. But you need to learn how to properly care for your entire setup, and do it.
  4. Work within your skill level and if you’re not sure about it, don’t do it. I know we already talked about this. I know you’re going to ignore me at least once (c’mon, we’ve ALL done it – didn’t you see my very reliable statistic about trying Something Cool). But please, please, we love you and we want you to be safe.
  5. Secure your rig when not in use. I don’t want to get into insurance implications, but rigs are commonly considered to be attractive nuisances, just like swimming pools. You should also be aware that all Monarca instructors carry teaching insurance, which sounds like a random fact until the neighborhood kids start begging you to teach them Something Cool. Also, silks wrapped around a rig leg can turn into a sail pretty quickly when it’s windy.

Once again – this is not an exhaustive list of how to rig at home. You’ll note that I specifically didn’t provide any how-to information! None of this is intended to imply that you’re now ready to rig on your own, or that you should rig at home, or that we even think you’re ready to train outside of class, but we believe that informed students make safer, better decisions. If you have questions about this or anything else, please never hesitate to ask any of your coaches! We have a wealth of knowledge and a few of us have home rigs of our own. We’re so happy that you love aerials, and we want you to fly safely so you can train for many years to come!

* Honestly, I just made this statistic up, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it.

** Another made-up statistic. I feel good about this one too, though.

*** I didn’t conduct a poll or anything, but this is the statistic I’m MOST sure about out of all of them.

**** I actually think this is really interesting, so here’s the quick and dirty. Did you know that certain kinds of snow can weigh up to 30lbs per cubic foot? (I didn’t even have to make this one up!) And ice weighs even more than that. When something like a roof is designed to hold a certain amount of weight, the WAY it holds the weight is also important. Your roof may be designed to hold a lot of weight dispersed fairly evenly and exerting pressure from above, but hanging the same amount of weight from just one point, pulling down from below, can be bad news bears. Now imagine there’s a blizzard, so you’re stuck at home, and you decide this is the perfect time to work on your drops! But the roof is already holding all that snow. That could get risky.

-Sophia Chen