(Hammock Man has requested to remain anonymous due to the nature of his activities, which could result in unwanted attention from school administration. For the purpose of this article he has agreed to go by the name Will.)
For most students at Western Washington University, the inside of the environmental sciences building isn’t the first place that comes to mind as the ideal hammock spot. One student, however, enjoyed a seemingly relaxing swing four stories above the main floor, just one of his many recent escapades across campus.
First-year student Will, known to many at Western as ‘Hammock Man,’ created the Instagram account @westernhammocking, which features photos of the unconventional locations he chooses to set up his hammock.
“I just like climbing things,” said Will. Throughout his life he has enjoyed a wide array of urban climbing, free soloing and canyoneering.
“In high school, most days I would just skip school and go climb up a mountain,” he said.
Will said that it was suggested to him by a friend to start an Instagram account featuring his climbs. Until the creation of the hammock account, he had never been on social media. He admitted that sometimes having such a following feels silly, but he still enjoys the novelty of it.
When Will sets up his hammock on campus, his friends usually help him out with documenting it. He has climbed a variety of buildings, bridges, sculptures and trees.
“Watching him climb all that crazy stuff definitely makes you hold your breath,” said Rachel Tracy, a friend of the hammock man. Tracy’s favorite adventure with Will so far is when she watched him climb the red sculpture, ‘For Handel,’ in the Union Plaza.
“It was very sketchy, but when he got up there I got to throw him snacks,” she said.
Will enjoys climbing things off campus as well, which he usually does by himself. He has been confronted a few times by security guards and police officers, but so far has not faced any severe consequences.
“I’m not a person to get scared of heights,” Will said. “I believe that once you get past 20 feet it doesn't matter. Once you get up there, whether the cliff is big or small, it’s still gonna hurt when I fall.”
First-year Ella Vitek says that when she goes out to hammock, it’s more about having fun and relaxing. “I feel like a lot of pro-hammockers are more intense about their location and style,” she said.
Setting up a hammock and relaxing with friends on campus is quite popular among students at Western.
“I’ve been hammocking for a long time, but I don't really go out of my comfort zone when it comes to where I set up,” first-year Hazel Oberholtzer said. “I think the hammock account is awesome, though. I like that he goes to crazy and scary places.”
Will carries a rope with him everywhere he goes, just in case he ever gets himself in a sticky situation while climbing. After starting the Instagram account, he now carries his hammock most places too.
Aside from enjoying the thrill of heights, Will also has a deeper meaning behind why he does what he does.
“We set up a lot of barriers in our world, socially and physically. Like, think about what a crosswalk is. It’s literally a piece of ground that we designate as a walk zone. That really irks me,” Will said.
For him, breaking away from the beaten path is important. Will said multiple times that he especially loathes sidewalks. (If you’re ever on the hunt for Hammock Man, just know he will rarely be found on or near any sidewalks ever, if he can help it).
Will is still getting used to people recognizing him from Instagram and addressing him as “The Hammock Guy.”
“Even my teacher recognized me, and that was a little scary, but that’s the world I’m in now. It’s fun, though, and I’m riding the wave while it lasts,” he said.
While Will derives a great deal of fun from risk-taking, he urges his followers to remember that climbing can still be a dangerous activity. “If you do this stuff, be safe, be a smart person. Do as I say, not as I do.”
One of Will’s most recent climbs took place under the Deception Pass Bridge in Oak Harbor, Wash. A fellow student shot photos from a nearby tree while Will performed one of his most daring stunts yet, hanging 180 feet above the churning ocean water below.
Will has a few ideas brewing of where he would like to set up his hammock next, so fellow Western hammock enthusiasts best stay tuned for more adventures to come.
Hanna Rhody (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second year majoring in environmental journalism. In her free time Hanna enjoys all things music and all things cheese.
You can find her on Instagram at @hannatheginger.