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On June 23, 2013, 34-year-old aerialist Nik Wallenda becomes the first person to walk a high wire across the Little Colorado River Gorge near Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Wallenda wasn’t wearing a safety harness as he made the quarter-mile traverse on a 2-inch-thick steel cable some 1,500 feet above the gorge. In June of the previous year, Wallenda, a member of the famous Flying Wallendas family of circus performers, became the first person to walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls.
Nik Wallenda learned to walk on a wire as a young boy, and made his professional debut as an aerialist at age 13. He went on to set a number of Guinness World Records, including the longest tightrope crossing on a bicycle and the highest eight-person tightrope pyramid. In 2011, Wallenda hung from a high-flying helicopter above Branson, Missouri, by his teeth. That same year, he and his mother successfully completed the high-wire walk in Puerto Rico that had killed Karl Wallenda.
On June 15, 2012, Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk directly over Niagara Falls on a high wire. He crossed an 1,800-foot-long, 7-ton wire from the U.S. side of the falls to the Canadian side at a height of around 200 feet in about 25 minutes. Because the event was televised around the world, broadcast officials required the famous funambulist to wear a safety tether in case he fell.
The following June, Wallenda made his Grand Canyon traverse. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt and holding a 43-pound balancing pole, he prayed out loud as he walked untethered across a 1,400-foot-long, 8.5-ton cable suspended 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. It was the highest walk of his career up to that point, and he completed it in just less than 23 minutes.
Nikolas Wallenda (born January 24, 1979) is an American acrobat, aerialist, daredevil, high wire artist, and author. He is known for his high-wire performances without a safety net. He holds 11 Guinness World Records for various acrobatic feats, but was best known as the first person to walk a tightrope stretched directly over Niagara Falls. Wallenda walked 1,800 feet on a steel cable over Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, his longest walk, on March 4, 2020.
Wallenda is a 7th-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family, and he participated in various circus acts as a child. He made his professional tightrope walking debut at age 13, and he chose high-wire walking as his career in 1998 after joining family members in a seven-person pyramid on the wire. In 2001, he was part of the world's first eight-person high-wire pyramid. He performed with his family at various venues from 2002 to 2005, forming his own troupe in 2005. He performed with Bello Nock in 2007 and 2008 in a double version of the Wheel of Steel that he helped invent. In 2009, he set new personal bests for highest and longest tightrope walks, completing a total of 15 walks above 100 feet (30 m) in the air that year.
In 2008, while performing with Ringling Bros., Wallenda set Guinness World Records for longest and highest bicycle ride on a high-wire 250-foot-long (76 m) at 135 feet (41 m) above the ground in New Jersey. He nearly doubled the height record in 2010 to 260 feet (79 m). On the same day in 2010, he upped his personal best by tightrope walking over 2,000 feet (610 m) in a single performance. He set a world record in 2011 by performing on the Wheel of Death atop the 23 story Tropicana Casino and Resort. Later that year, he and his mother tightrope walked between the two towers of Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico. The feat was a re-creation of the one that killed Karl Wallenda, Nik's great-grandfather and primary source of inspiration. On June 10, 2011, Wallenda hung from a helicopter 250 feet (76 m) off the ground using only his toes to hold on.  Some time after that, he walked on top of a turning Ferris wheel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, CA.
Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on June 15, 2012 on a live ABC special, following a two-year legal battle involving both sides of the Canada–United States border to gain approval. He was required to wear a safety harness for the first time in his life. A reality show aired on the Science Channel which followed his feats. In 2013, he released a memoir entitled Balance. He became the first person to high-wire walk across the Grand Canyon on June 23, 2013. The feat aired live on Discovery breaking rating records for the network. He followed that up with Skyscraper Live, a live Discovery special that aired on November 2, 2014, in which he completed two tightrope walks and set two new Guinness World Records: one for walking the steepest tightrope incline over 600’ up between two skyscrapers, and the other for the highest tightrope walk while blindfolded.
Wallenda is married with three children, and considers his Christian faith to be a central aspect of his life.
(Los Angeles, Ca.) Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, “The King of the High Wire,” has made history by becoming the first person ever to cross over the Grand Canyon. This was the highest tightrope walk ever attempted by Wallenda — towering 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River, a height greater than the Empire State Building. Discovery Channel’s SKYWIRE LIVE WITH NIK WALLENDA aired live across the United States and in 223 countries on Sunday, June 23.
“The Grand Canyon was a place I visited as a kid. For as long as I can remember, it has been a dream of mine to cross over such a spectacular setting,” said 34-year-old Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the legendary Flying Wallenda family. “I’m incredibly grateful to the Navajo Nation for allowing me to accomplish my dream and the Discovery Channel for trusting in my abilities.”
“This was certainly history in the making,” said Eileen O’Neill, Group President Discovery and TLC Networks. “Nik inspires so many people around the world to follow their dreams. We are incredibly proud to have brought this event into so many homes across the country and around the globe.”
Wallenda walked over the canyon on a tightrope, approximately 1,400 feet across, without using any type of harness or restraint. Wallenda believes the harness creates a false sense of security and diminishes a craft that his family has spent generations learning to perfect. The untethered walk was also a chance to honor his great-grandfather, the legendary Karl Wallenda, who died after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978.
“A walk we’ll never forget, it was quite an honor to produce this historic live event for Discovery,” said Sharon Scott, President and GM of NBC News’ Peacock Productions. “Nik’s vision and lifelong dream, this was a remarkable project to collaborate on, and we congratulate Nik on achieving this astonishing milestone.”
The tightrope crossing took place in a remote section of the Grand Canyon operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation and served as a spectacular backdrop to the event.
“It was an honor to have Nik Wallenda and Discovery Channel broadcast the event from our tribal lands,” said Geri Hongeva-Camarillo, Media Representative of the Navajo Parks and Recreation. “It was an opportunity to show the world the beauty that exists here and we hope that many viewers will make Navajo Nation one of their top destinations for travel.”
“The mission of the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department is to protect, preserve and manage tribal parks, monuments and recreation areas for the enjoyment and benefit of the Navajo Nation,” said Helen Webster, Park Manager of Navajo Parks and Recreation. “The broadcast showcased all the spectacular landscapes and areas of beauty and solitude.”
Viewers around the world joined Team Wallenda through social media leading up to and during the historic walk. Discovery Channel shared insight about Nik, his family and training through videos, pictures, #Skywire Tweets and more. U.S. audiences also had the opportunity to go to SkywireLive.com and get Wired Inthrough an immersive six-camera multiplatform experience complementing the live Discovery on-air event.
The Grand Canyon walk marks Nik Wallenda’s eighth world record, including his 2012 tightrope walk directly over the Niagara Falls from the United States to Canada. He is currently planning his next major feat, which may include stringing a wire between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
Exclusive: Nik Wallenda on Family, Fame, Fortune—and the Grand Canyon
When he entered Canada last year, Sarasota's Nik Wallenda had to present his passport to immigration authorities just like anybody else. But that's where the similarities with earthbound folks end. Wallenda, of course, stepped into Canada after crossing Niagara Falls on a wire, watched by a worldwide audience that garnered the daredevil an estimated one billion independent media impressions. Heir to perhaps the most famous circus family in history, Wallenda is now set to cross the Grand Canyon on June 23. He'll be untethered this time, no safety net in sight, 1,500 feet above the rushing waters of the Little Colorado River. The seventh-generation Flying Wallenda wouldn't have it any other way.
Wallenda, 34, acknowledges that his life has changed since his Niagara crossing. His public appearances and speaking events keep him on planes and away from Sarasota, and impact the time he gets to spend with his family—his wife of 14 years, Erendira, and his three children, Yanni, Amadaos and Evita. He's in the midst of a number of major endorsement deal negotiations, makes constant media appearances, and carefully manages his brand and performing career as he returns the Wallenda name to prominence.
When he's not hanging by his teeth under helicopters, walking Wheels of Death suspended over the edges of tall buildings, or daring fate on the high wires that claimed the lives of his great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, and other members of his family, these days Nik Wallenda might just as easily be found shopping at a Sarasota Walmart, making time to sign autographs for fans. We recently caught up with Wallenda, who was home for a brief visit in between making preparations to cross the Grand Canyon.
Q: You've been traveling a lot?
A: Oh, man. I just got home yesterday. I was in Arizona, Illinois, and twice in New York. I was gone for eight days, and I may be flying out tomorrow. Back out to Arizona for a photo shoot. It's crazy how busy I am. Up until now I've been doing it all myself, OK'ing all of my flights and a lot of them I purchase. But it's gotten to the point that I'm about to hire an assistant.
Q: You have to wear a lot of different hats in your career.
A: I always have. I have to be on camera, on point, and also I'm on all the engineering calls. Every Friday we have meetings leading up to the event. For instance, we had to buy a rope to pull the cable I'll be walking on from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other. It's a $35,000 rope, so it's not just a rope. I go out and get extra bids and better pricing.
Q: Tell us about the Grand Canyon walk.
A: The distance is similar to Niagara, about 1,500 feet across. It's 1,500 feet high, taller than the Sears Tower. It's in a beautiful area right over the Little Colorado River about an hour from Flagstaff. One of the challenges is we're not going to be able to have huge crowds. At Niagara, there were 150,000 people. Here, we're talking maybe 300. There's no space for people.
Q: Why the Grand Canyon?
A: As far as TV-friendly and the beauty of location, this is the place. If it's too long a walk, airtime is an issue. NBC is producing it it's going to be live on the Discovery Channel in about 181 countries. It's possibly going to be the largest live TV special in history outside of the Olympics 1.3 billion people will be able to watch.
Q: You had a billion people watch you cross Niagara, is that right?
A: It wasn't [all] live, but yes, within 24 hours we had one billion media impressions around the world.
Q: I know you dreamed about crossing Niagara as a child, but why choose another natural location?
A: The canyon was something I dreamed about for a long time, too. I was actually planning to walk across it back in 2008, but NBC had some financial problems and my project was put on hold. When I drive anywhere in the world I'm always looking around and saying, "Where's the next spot?" In Sarasota, I think, 'Well, I've done the Ritz-Carlton. I've gone over 41. What's next?"
Q: There was an explosion of media coverage about you beginning around 2011, which has been constant through now. Your life has really changed, hasn't it?
A: For sure. I have set out on a path to put my family's name under a worldwide spotlight. My ancestors did an amazing job, and it's time for us to get the name out there again. That's been my goal, to make sure the world doesn't forget who the Wallendas are.
Q: But for a long period, it was like that, the world had left the Wallendas behind. How did you get yourself out in front of the cameras again?
A: (Laughing) I heard "no" a lot and I didn't give up. That's why I live by that motto, "Never Give Up." Niagara Falls is the perfect example. I had to speak in front of the New York state senate, the Assembly, the House the governor had to sign a law with my name on it giving me—and me only—an exemption to a law [against stunts] that was existent for over 100 years. It's a challenge, it's a fight. It cost me well over a million dollars to pull that off. That's not easy money to come by, especially in our industry.
Q: So how did you lay the groundwork for it?
A: Before Niagara, I had broken six world records. It was important that I had first built a name. If some guy comes up and says, "I'm one of the Wallendas, let me do it," the first thing they say is, "Great, but Karl Wallenda was a Wallenda, and he died in 1978 walking between two buildings." I went back and recreated that walk with my mother just to prove to the world that the Wallendas are still around and know what we're doing. There've been about 14 wire walkers over the past 100 years who've adamantly sought but were not granted permission to walk over the falls. I built the brand up before I went to seek that permission.
Q: You learned wire walking from your family, but did you learn brand management from them, too?
A: That's an area my family kind of lacks in. My managers will tell you, "Get Nik in the room and we guarantee the deal will be closed." I can promote. I am a marketer, a businessman, as much as I am a performer. My family are incredible performers—but they're not incredible businessmen. And you need to be incredible businessmen in order to excel. The perfect examples would be my great-grandfather and Evel Knievel. More businessmen than performers, but both made history.
Q: You grew up around the circus, but what you're doing isn't really traditional circus, is it?
A: That's my background, my history, but I've stepped away and brought it to the mainstream. I remember years ago saying, "I want to make circus cool." How do I do that? I take what I learned from my family and make it new. A couple examples are the Wheel of Death, something our family has done forever, and I said I'm going to put it on top of a building and hang it over the edge so if I fall off, literally I'm falling 300 feet. Another example is I'm visiting my grandmother [Jenny Wallenda] and she's got a picture of her hanging under a bicycle on a wire by her jaw. I saw that and said, "That's awesome, but how can I make that cool?" So I put it under a helicopter without any safety at 280 feet. I look at a guy like Tony Hawk here's a guy who loves skateboarding and he made an incredible career out of it. I've always realized our family must be missing the mark, because if somebody who rides a skateboard can make hundreds of millions of dollars, what we do is so much more extreme, there's got to be a way.
Q: Wallendas have been part of our culture for a long time everybody knows the name. But have you gone farther? Are you the most famous Wallenda?
A: I try to do anything I can to put my family's name on a platform. I do it in honor of my great-grandfather. It's important to me that he would be proud of what I'm doing. I don't do anything to outshine him I do everything to shine light on him. We've got media he didn't have access to and it's at the fingertips of everybody. My goal was to build a brand that everybody in the world would know, and I think he'd be right alongside me.
Q: Can you talk a little about your endorsement deals?
A: I have a Swiss watch that endorses me called Jean Richard. I [did] a photo shoot [in April] for GQ here in Sarasota. Other things are still in negotiations: major automobile companies, clothing lines, sports drinks, deodorants, cell phones. There's definitely a lot of reward for the work I've put into this. I hope other people in our industry can capitalize on the doors I've opened.
Q: I know your main focus is walking on the wire if business deals fall through, can that stress or distract you?
A: That's one of the blessings of being raised in this industry. I remember as a child my parents getting called to perform at Disney World I'd be so excited, "We're going to perform at Disney World for a year!" And it would fall through and my heart would break. So I'm immune to that. I've been through it already.
Q: You've said that until Niagara, you'd never spent even six days away from your wife and kids. I'm suspecting that's not true anymore?
A: It's definitely changing. Although they fly in. Next week, they're coming to New York I'm bringing my entire family. It's one of the things people connect with: I'm a family man. My wife and kids come first, they are my main priority. My main calling in life is to be a father. The rest comes second.
Q: And you're religious, a devout Christian you expressed your faith to the world while crossing Niagara. Do you make it to church even when you're on the road?
A: With the Internet, I attend my home church almost every Sunday no matter where I'm at. I go to Shining Light Bible Church, which is off Fruitville east of the Interstate. It's nondenominational. I'm not overly religious that kind of scares people sometimes. I don't believe I have to be at church every Sunday, but it's good to be fed every week, to learn more about God and socialize. A lot of times, my family will be in the audience and I'll be on the Internet.
Q: Does your faith make it complicated for your brand and reaching people around the world, many of who may not be Christian?
A: To hurt my brand, I think I'd have to be out there forcing that in people's faces. I believe my example is more of a witness than anyone saying, "This is what the Bible says." I have faults. I make mistakes all the time. I will get frustrated with my father and get in an argument and be cursing and screaming. At the end of the day, it's a hug and kiss and, "Dad, I love you and I shouldn't have said that." I do my best to remain a positive example, a father, a family man. Business can get in the way of that I have arguments with my wife and definitely many growing pains in our marriage because I have to travel a lot. Some of my closest friends will slap me upside the head and say, "Don't forget who you are and where you came from." After every event, I sign autographs. As a matter of fact, I was telling my wife, "You know, it's probably not good because my autograph will not be worth anything. "It's great for my brand [but] I think it hurts the value of an autograph when you're signing so many.
Q: Please keep signing those autographs!
A: I will. Shoot, I was at Walmart signing an autograph last night when I got home.
Q: Speaking of arguing with your father, I watched the Sarasota Skywalk you did in January. For me, that was more terrifying than Niagara. At Niagara, you were tethered, but it was so windy in Sarasota, there was terror on everyone's faces. You were on live feed arguing with your father about the tension on the wire. What was he doing wrong? Can you talk about that?
Everything to know about Nik Wallenda Nicaragua volcano high wire walk live special on ABC
Daredevil Nik Wallenda has his sights set on a new daring highwire stunt, this time across an active volcano. Here's a look at everything to know about "Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda" on ABC:
How, when to watch 'Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda'
The special will air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/PT | 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday, March 4.
What to know about Nik Wallenda's volcano stunt
Wallenda will attempt a 1,800-foot walk over the Masaya Volcano in Masaya, Nicaragua. According to the network, the stunt will mark Wallenda's "longest and highest highwire walk ever attempted."
The network added: "Part of the famed Pacific Ring of Fire, Masaya encompasses multiple craters and is one of very few volcanoes to possess a lava lake. The extreme environment at Masaya will add an extra set of risks to Nik's already daring walk. Throughout the televised event, Nik and his family will be featured in interviews about the rigging, planning and execution of the walk. Volcanologists and various professionals will also be on-site to lend their expertise."
Nik Wallenda will attempt a 1,800-foot walk over the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, his longest and highest highwire walk ever attempted.
"After spending years scouting and researching volcanoes, I fully realize why no one has ever attempted this feat: Mother Nature is extremely unpredictable. It is by far the most dangerous walk I have EVER attempted, and that alone makes it very intimidating," Wallenda said in a statement. "I am pushing myself beyond my comfort zone by the feat itself, but I know that I am up to the challenge. I must admit, it is scary."
In a statement, a representative said the government of Nicaragua was "thrilled to be able to showcase Nicaragua through an ambitious walk by Nik Wallenda."
"The Bachelor" host Chris Harrison has signed on as the official emcee of the special, and ESPN anchor Sage Steele will co-host.
What to know about Nik Wallenda's Times Square highwire walk, other specials
Wallenda's volcano walk is the latest in a string of daring highwire walks. He and his sister Lijana walked 25 stories above Times Square last year.
Nik Wallenda is a seventh-generation acrobat but said he was nervous during that walk. His sister, Lijana Wallenda, joined him for the first time since her near-fatal accident in 2017, when she broke nearly every bone in her face. The two were wearing tethered safety harnesses required by the city in case they fell.
The Crossroads of the World turned into the highwire crossroads of the famed Wallendas on Sunday night, when the two siblings successfully crossed a highwire atop Times Square.
The siblings walked from opposite ends of the 1,300-foot wire suspended between the towers, crossing each other in the middle, where Lijana Wallenda sat on the wire and let her brother step over her. Both then continued to the opposite side.
Previous televised specials have chronicled Wallenda's walks across a Grand Canyon gorge, across Niagara Falls and between skyscrapers in Chicago.
Flying Wallendas family history
The Wallenda family has been a star tightrope-walking troupe for generations, tracing their roots to 1780 in Austria-Hungary, when their ancestors traveled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers, and trapeze artists. They never use nets in live shows or in rehearsals.
In 1978, 73-year-old Karl Wallenda fell to his death from a high wire strung between two buildings in Puerto Rico. In 1962, Karl Wallenda's nephew and son-in-law died, and his son was paralyzed, after a seven-person pyramid collapsed during a performance. Lijana Wallenda's fall happened during an attempt to break a Guinness world record with an eight-person pyramid.
Nik Wallenda crosses noxious Masaya Volcano on high-wire with ease
You've heard of the man on the flying trapeze, but what about the man crossing an erupting volcano on a high-wire?
On Wednesday night, Nik Wallenda set out to make history when the 41-year-old daredevil crossed an 1,800-foot one-inch-thick wire stretching across Nicaragua's active Masaya Volcano. After having conquered a Grand Canyon gorge, Niagara Falls, and two Chicago skyscrapers, Wallenda set himself his most difficult task yet.
The walk itself was full of breathtaking, hair-raising views of Wallenda on the wire, the daredevil a speck against the gaping mouth of the volcano. He struggled with heavy winds and noxious gases issuing from the volcano, swirling plumes of acidic volcanic gas that make it hard to breathe and see. Wallenda had to wear a gas mask to make the walk, despite wanting to forgo the safety measure because it blocks his peripheral vision (without it he could have run the risk of losing consciousness).
Though still a mammoth task, Wallenda seemed to tackle it with ease, praising God and shilling with quips about writing chapters of his book in his head (it's about overcoming fear, for those wondering) while he walked.
Wallenda told host Chris Harrison about the challenges of the walk while completing it, noting that the strong winds were like a “hurricane.” He explained, “The gases hit me hard, [and] eyes actually started to burn.”
Still, he did it high spirits — and in just over 31 minutes — joking to the commentators, “I’m just hoping to make it on SportsCenter’s top 10.”
ABC stretched the special into a two-hour event, bloating it to unnecessary lengths with over an hour of packages about Wallenda's past walks, the science and engineering behind the wire, and his family history (he is a seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallendas circus family).
They kicked things off with a special performance from Wallenda's wife, Erendira, who hung above the volcano on a hoop to deliver an aerial performance.
"To be honest, my career is not about topping myself," Wallenda previously told EW. "Everything I’ve done, the reality is, it’s just as risky. So to me, it’s more about parallels, and I have a long, long bucket list. The truth is, they’re life-and-death, whether I’m walking over an amusement park or walking over my swimming pool, depending on how high I am, or walking over an active volcano."
But after crossing an active volcano, if he does want to top himself, it will be quite the challenge.
Viewers call out Nik Wallenda's live volcano high-wire crossing for safety precautions
High-wire artist Nik Wallenda crossed Nicauragua's active Masaya Volcano during the ABC special Volcano Live! Wednesday night. And he had to worry about a lot more than just keeping his balance.
This volcano is one of only eight volcanoes in the world to have a lava lake, filled with 2,000-degree molten rock. The volcano also emits a toxic fog that is made up of hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen sulfide, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide gasses, which required that the high-wire cable be coated in special material to keep from corroding.
Wallenda wore a gas mask and sealed goggles to keep the toxic fumes from burning and incapacitating him. Despite the safety precautions, he said that the gasses managed to burn his eyes.
At a height of 1,800 feet, this was Wallenda's highest walk. He later admitted it was also his windiest. There was one point during the walk in which viewers could really see Wallenda battling the wind.
Despite the toxic gasses, 2,000-degree lava, gusting winds, and the fact that this was his longest and highest crossing of his career, many viewers complained on Twitter about Nik wearing a safety harness, causing quite a feud to emerge between haters and fans.
When I see him wearing a safety harness, secured to the cable above him. #VolcanoLive pic.twitter.com/qtax2pmLqJ
— Jen Davis (@JenDavisTX) March 5, 2020
Everyone talking about “he’s wearing a safety harness 🥴” like there isn’t an ACTIVE VOLCANO beneath him. I wanna see y’all haters do it #VolcanoLive
— kay (@kayrachellexox) March 5, 2020
I don’t care if Nik Wallenda has a harness and a strap walking across one of the world’s most volatile volcanos, the wind and the toxic gasses are a huge problem! If it were easy and not unthinkably dangerous then everyone would do it! #VolcanoLive
— Todd Miller (@PlayByPlayGuy1) March 5, 2020
It should be pointed out that Wallenda normally uses a safety harness, including his walks across Niagara Falls and Times Square. In fact, the only major walk he has done in the last eight years without a safety harness was the Grand Canyon in 2013.
The entire crossing took Wallenda a little over 31 minutes. He spent much of that time praying, as well as pitching his new book Facing Fear. When he did finally finish the walk, he was greeted by hugs, cheers, and place in the history books.
Daredevil Nik Wallenda completes high-wire walk across Grand Canyon
(Updated 11:14am)LITTLE COLORADO RIVER - Daredevil Nik Wallenda completed a high-wire walk on a 2-inch steel cable over a section of the Grand Canyon on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), greeted by wild cheers after his hair-raising stunt.
Wallenda, the self-described "King of the High Wire," took 22 minutes and 54 seconds to walk 1,400 feet across the crimson-hued canyon with just the distant ribbon of the Little Colorado River beneath him. The event was broadcast live around the world.
Wallenda made the crossing without tether or safety net.
Wallenda could be heard praying almost constantly during the walk, murmuring "Thank you, Jesus." He kissed the ground when he reached the other side.
"It took every bit of me to stay focused that entire time," Wallenda said. "My arms are aching like you wouldn't believe."
Wallenda said the walk was stressful, with gusts of wind that moved the cable. But he also said the view, from 1,500 feet above the snaking river, was "breathtaking."
"It was everything I ever wanted it to be," he said.
A seventh-generation member of the "Flying Wallendas" family of acrobats, Wallenda also made history last year by becoming the only person to walk a high wire over the brink of Niagara Falls. He used the same cable on Sunday.
The 34-year-old first dreamed of the challenge during a visit to the Grand Canyon with his parents as a teenager.
There was no word on the financial benefits of Wallenda's stunt. He was listed by the Discovery Channel as one of the executive producers of the live broadcast. A Discovery spokesman could not be reached for comment on that.
Viewers watching live in 217 countries were able to share Wallenda's point of view from the cable during the crossing, through cameras rigged to his body. Wallenda held a 43-pound balancing pole.
Clan patriarch Karl Wallenda, Nik's great-grandfather, slipped and fell to his death from a high wire in Puerto Rico in 1978.
Wallenda said before the crossing that his greatest concern was the unpredictable wind gusts that are prone to buffet the site in a remote section of the Grand Canyon's watershed on the Navajo Nation.
Wallenda trained in his Florida hometown of Sarasota as Tropical Storm Andrea barreled ashore and used air boats to blast him with side and updrafts of 55 miles per hour.
Wallenda talks about his strong Christian faith in his new book "Balance."
"That's really where I get my peace," he said. "I have confidence that if something were to happen to me, I know where I'm going." - Reuters
Christian High Wire Artist Nik Wallenda Unmasks in New Book, Untethers for Walk Across Grand Canyon
On June 23, 2013, high wire artist and acrobat Nik Wallenda will attempt to cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. It is expected to be the legend's most daring feat yet. If he falls, he says, he already knows where he's going. There's a very good chance though, he won't.
About a year ago, Wallenda became the first man in history to walk 1,800 feet on a tightrope across the roaring Niagara Falls from the U.S. to the Canadian side of the falls.
In two weeks, his walk across the Grand Canyon will become his highest walk ever. And unlike his much televised traverse on the tightrope across Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon walk will be done in his usual scintillating unharnessed fashion.
This week, The Christian Post sat down with the high wire artist after a media blitz in New York and we talked about life after Niagara Falls, his recently released memoir, Balance, the upcoming event across the Grand Canyon, the role of faith in his life and what he thinks about fear.
Below is an edited version of our conversation.
CP: I think most people today remember you as that guy who walked across Niagara Falls last summer. How significant of a moment was that for you?
Nik: It was significant. It was a dream come true. Anybody who can fulfill a lifelong dream that they've pursued, fourteen wire walkers have pursued that dream for the last 100 years and none of them were granted permission. To be able to get U.S. law changed and the Canadian law changed in order to fulfill a dream is a big deal. So it was very substantial for me, for my family. My family has been doing this for 200 years but to put that name back in the worldwide spotlight is always great for the brand.
Nik Wallenda speaks about his wire walk over the Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls, as he stands beside the American Falls on May 2 in Niagara Falls, N.Y. | (Photo: Reuters)
CP: Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would have hit that milestone?
Nik: You know, I live by three words, "never give up." So no, there really wasn't. You know, my wife always says in a flirtatious way, it's frustrating how I am because I believe I can do anything in life. Honestly, if my mind believes I wanted to be the president of the United States, which I have no desire to be, then I could be the president of the United States. It's just the way my mind works. I believe that with persistence and with hard work and with that "never give up" attitude, you can accomplish anything … and with the grace of God.
CP: Your wife and kids were waiting to receive you after the Niagara Falls event, what was the first thing you said to her?
Nik: What are you cooking for dinner tonight (laughs)? I just gave her a hug and she just gave me a kiss and said "I'm proud of you." And then I went straight into media interviews.
CP: Was she scared at any point?
Nik: She's your wife so of course she's nervous. I don't think she was scared but of course nervous, like I think a lot of wives, when their husbands are police officers and they go to work, they get nervous … She (wife) comes from eight generations of circus background so she understands my passion, understands what I do, walks the wire with me also.
CP: How did life change for you after that event?
Nik: It didn't a lot to be honest. I was raised in a family that is pretty well-known. There are four books on my family right now, there has been a two-hour movie, it's aired every year on ABC in most major outlets. I think I'm probably recognized on the street a little more so that's what's changed and I try to remain grounded and that's what a lot of the book's about – me being grounded with my family, with my faith and not letting my ego take over.
CP: June seems like a rather busy month for you. Today (June 4) marks the release of your memoir, Balance, and on June 23, you'll be walking across the Grand Canyon. What inspired you to write a memoir?
Nik: Really it was just a lot of fan mail saying we want to hear your life story. We are so inspired by what you do. We want to hear about you and I had so many different requests for that and it just seemed like the right time.
I always knew I'd write one, I actually thought I would write it at an older age but it just made sense with Niagara Falls happening and so many people being inspired by that and the Grand Canyon coming up, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
CP: What is the biggest takeaway in the book for you?
Nik: You know, whenever you tell a story of your life, you go through the ups and downs and I was very revealing, all of my issues and problems, it almost becomes therapeutic in some ways.
People go to psychiatrists to tell them their problems but here, I writing a book, I'm telling the world these are my issues, these are my problems, this is what makes me human, this is what makes me like you. I'm very unique in what my occupation is but I'm no different than anyone else at the same time. I've got the same problems as everyone. I've got marriage problems, I've have three kids I'm raising, I'm a father, I struggle with egos, balancing all of that stuff out.
CP: What was the writing process like? Did you find it difficult?
Nik: No and I think the reason why is that I've told my story, my family's story most of my life. My first full-page, front of the newspaper photo and article was when I was six. So I've done media my entire life and I've told these stories over and over. Now this digs a little deeper, it touches on my family history but it really digs into my heart and soul.
I'm a storyteller in a lot of ways just by my career. I've told my family story, I've told my story 87 times today alone. So it becomes very natural and very easy and again, it's therapeutic.
CP: How did you decide what to include and what to leave out?
Nik: I really wanted it to be about my life story and about the challenges that I face. So many people write books and they write all the good and none of the bad, none of the ugly. And I really wanted to say look, this is who I am. I've made mistakes.
I again, I have problems with my marriage, I'm human, so I really didn't keep a whole lot out of it.
All my family's books are really about the history of the family and their life but I really wanted to talk a little bit about family history but more about me and this is my life, these are my issues, I hope you are inspired by it.
I hope you realize that because Nik Wallenda, his wife left because she was over him and his ego and his controlling ways but she came back because he realized he has problems, he admitted to the problems, he worked on them. And they're still working every day on their marriage. And I hope that it inspires people. I hope that they learn from it.
CP: Are there any plans to make it into a movie?
Nik: Not at this point but that would be awesome if it turns into a movie, absolutely. At this point there is nothing in the works, I'll put it that way. There's plenty of dreams. But I'm very blessed and most of my dreams come true, so probably (laughs).
CP: How have you been preparing for your walk across the Grand Canyon on June 23?
Nik: Preparing mentally just by putting myself over. I visualize myself crossing the Canyon over and over again. I visualize myself making that first step, quarter of a way, half way, three quarters of a way and then finishing that walk. That's really a lot of the mental prep.
Life on the Wire
Nik Wallenda wants your toes to curl and your heart to pound in terror, but he doesn’t want you to look away—he’s got an amazing show for you. A seventh-generation aerialist and son of the famed Flying Wallendas circus troupe, he has spent his life treating audiences to truly heart-in-mouth spectacles, in person and through live television.
He has stretched the limits of the sport of high-wire walking, crossing 1,500 feet above a Grand Canyon gorge on a dangerously swaying cable with no harness or net. He was the first to cross directly above Niagara Falls through swirling wind and mist so heavy that he was at times blinded. And in March 2020, he topped all that by walking through corrosive fumes across the crater of an active volcano in Nicaragua, above a magma lake at more than 2,000 degrees. And he can’t wait to do more.
“Before I got to the other side of the volcano, I was already thinking of 15 other events I could do,” Wallenda, 42, says.
Growing Up Wallenda
Wallenda was just 18 months old when his mother first put him on a tightrope in the backyard. This was normal parenting practice in the family, as his sister, cousin, and other relatives also trained from an extremely young age. His mother, Delilah, even walked the wire while pregnant with him, so you could certainly say he was born into the lifestyle.
A favorite saying of his great-grandfather, the legendary circus performer Karl Wallenda, is Wallenda’s truth: “Life is on the wire, and everything else is just waiting.”
The family traces their acrobatic history back over 200 years to Germany. They moved to the U.S. in the 1930s after John Ringling saw their act in Havana and hired them for his “Greatest Show on Earth,” according to The New York Times. Wallenda holds multiple Guinness World Records, including the steepest tightrope walk, highest blindfolded walk, highest wire crossing on a bicycle, and tallest four-person pyramid on a high wire.
His wife, Erendira, is also from a long circus lineage. “She comes from seven generations in the business on one side, and eight on the other,” Wallenda says. According to the Washington Post, he called her a “ballerina in the air” after she hung by her teeth from a helicopter over Niagara Falls, breaking Wallenda’s iron-jaw world record.
Contrary to what some might think, his family didn’t pressure him to carry on the tradition. “My parents saw the struggles of the entertainment and circus world and did everything they could to push me out of the industry,” Wallenda says. “When you’re in front of a live audience from the age of two—that’s when I started performing, not on the wire but as a clown—there’s that attraction,” he says. “I was passionate about it.”
His three adult children have careers in the military and health care. “They all are really good at walking the wire, but we never let them do it in front of an audience. It was to protect them from that itch, that bug, and let them make their own decisions when they got older,” Wallenda says.
There’s a video of Wallenda walking between two skyscrapers in Chicago for a 2014 TV special. In the wide shots, the silhouette of his body looks like a bird flying through the air, the balance pole extending like wings on either side. The cable slopes up at 19 degrees, the steepest ever recorded by Guinness World Records.
As he ascended, he spoke into a mic. “What an incredibly beautiful city at night Chicago is,” he said, as casually as if he weren’t teetering on a cable the diameter of a penny. “God is in control,” he added. At the top, he took an elevator to the ground, went back to the tower, and put on a blindfold to walk another tightrope. Another Guinness World Record. Small wonder the media has dubbed him the King of the High Wire.
Wallenda, like others in his family, typically eschews a harness or safety net whenever local ordinances and his contracts permit. Life on the wire is normal to the Wallendas, but the family has endured tragedies over the decades. The patriarch, Karl, lost his life in a fall from a tightrope on a beachfront in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978. Wallenda speaks openly about the accidents. “Seven [family members] fell in 1962,” Wallenda says. “In 2017, we fell doing an eight-person pyramid, and there were serious injuries.”
Wallenda and his sister, Lijana, were rehearsing the intricate formation in Sarasota, Florida, when their moving pyramid suddenly collapsed. Wallenda and two performers managed to catch the line, but the others hit the ground. Lijana landed face-first and nearly died, with surgeons requiring more than 70 screws and plates to repair her broken bones. Badly shaken, Wallenda nevertheless found substitute performers, did a modified show, and locked away his trauma to fulfill the contract. He wrote about the emotional aftermath in his book, Facing Fear: Step Out in Faith and Rise Above What’s Holding You Back.
The fall affected him mentally, for a bit. Accidents are always going to happen, Wallenda says. “My risks seem more intense because I’m walking on a wire, but it’s a very calculated risk,” he says. “Do I arrogantly say that I’ll never fall? No. It’s risky and dangerous—and it could take my life at some point, but I train as hard as I can so that that doesn’t happen.”
“I absolutely trip. In training, it happens often,” Wallenda says. “Sometimes, on the ground, you trip,” he says. “However, if I trip up there, it could cost me my life. But for me, walking on the wire is the same as walking on the ground.”
In his early 40s, Wallenda says wire walking hasn’t gotten physically more difficult over time. Wallenda family members tend to age with extreme grace, often continuing on the high wire into their 70s or 80s. “It’s our passion,” Wallenda says. “Tell Tiger Woods to stop golfing or Michael Jordan to stop playing basketball—it’s not going to happen.”
He shares the story of his mother having a hip replacement in her 60s. “She had to convince her surgeon to put in an athletic hip instead of a regular one for average people,” Wallenda says. “My mom said, ‘No, I’m an athlete. I need the titanium hip.’” Six months afterward, he and Delilah—and her new hip—walked together on a tightrope 100 feet in the air for a show in Tampa.
As he gets older, Wallenda notices the difference more on the mental side of things. “You think a little more before you do things,” he says. “In my book, Facing Fear, I wrote about the psyche and the internal dialogue that we all deal with as we get older,” Wallenda says.
“Fear can hold us back from success, from who we’re created to be,” Wallenda says, “but it’s a stepping-stone.”
“Failure creates fear … without failure, you can’t get to success,” he says.
Wallenda draws a comparison to an investor’s fear of losses and how that can hold them back from stock market success. He recalls his first meeting with a financial advisor. “My advisor did a risk analysis. It’s to see how risk averse you are and how much risk you want to take in the stock market.” After Wallenda completed the questions, the advisor was astonished, saying, “Wow. Never in my career have I seen someone who wants to take that much risk with their money.”
With finances, with life, and with performances, that’s how I am, Wallenda says. “I’m all in. If I get knocked down, I’ll invest again until I win,” He says his career has afforded him the opportunity to retire comfortably, but he can’t imagine doing so.
“I’ve been extremely blessed, more than I ever dreamed,” he says. “I could retire now at 42, but my wife says I’m addicted to work.” Beyond wire walking, he and Erendira keep busy with different activities, like any normal family. “I do house remodeling. We buy and flip houses,” Wallenda says. “But when I’m doing that, I can’t wait till the next big walk.”
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‘Flying Wallendas’ Cross Times Square on High Wire in Death-Defying Stunt
On Sunday night, Nik and Lijana Wallenda walked a quarter-mile on a wire strung 25 stories above Midtown Manhattan.
Ali Ali, 30, looked up from his steaming hot dog cart on West 45th Street on Sunday night and gazed up at a wire rigged along the length of Times Square between two skyscrapers, 25 stories above street level.
“It’s crazy — they are walking through the sky,” said Mr. Ali, who for the moment had no customers.
They, along with throngs of onlookers — whether tourists or jaded New Yorkers — were staring, necks craned, toward the night sky to watch Nik and Lijana Wallenda walking a wire high above Manhattan.
The siblings — members of the Flying Wallendas circus family — held balancing poles and started on opposite sides of a 1,300-foot wire, strung between 1 Times Square at the south end at 42nd Street, and 2 Times Square, just north of the TKTS booth at 47th Street.
They slowly inched toward the center of the wire, where they met and embarked on the delicate process of passing each other.
Ms. Wallenda lowered herself and sat carefully on the wire as her brother skillfully stepped over her.
Ms. Wallenda said she struggled briefly when standing back up, but added, “I was calm about it — I was like, ‘I got this.’”
Then they both proceeded on their separate ways to complete the stunt.
“Maybe the biggest surprise was that the wire was as stable as it was,” Mr. Wallenda said afterward.
The wire walk had the feel of an old-time spectacle, and spectators who packed Times Square seemed for the moment immune to the flashy billboards and other distractions.
Mr. Wallenda began slowly from the north end of the wire at roughly 9 p.m.
“There he goes,” said Douglas Klein, a landscaper from Corvalis, Ore., who was on vacation in New York, along with his sister Becky Bernosky and her daughters, Laci, 15, and Lindsey, 11.
“It all seems kind of scary because I don’t want him to fall,” Lindsey said, staring up at Mr. Wallenda.
“I don’t even like heights, so I can feel my heart racing,” said Christina Divne, who was visiting New York from Stockholm with her family.
She said the walk might have been more exciting if the Wallendas had not worn safety harnesses, “but it would also be more messy if they fell to their deaths doing this.”
Spectators applauded from the street as the Wallendas performed overhead.
After they crossed in the middle of the wire, Mr. Wallenda, 40, finished more quickly than his sister. Then the crowd cheered heartily as if to buoy Ms. Wallenda to a safe end.
For Ms. Wallenda, 42, the walk was her first high-wire attempt since a 2017 accident in which she and four other walkers fell 30 feet off a tightrope during a rehearsal and were seriously injured.
In an interview after the walk, Mr. Wallenda said he became emotional when meeting his sister in the middle of the wire.
“It was hard to hold it together,” he said.
Mr. Wallenda said the blinding billboards were dizzying and difficult to prepare for.
“How do you duplicate Times Square and the distractions?” he said.
However, at least one distraction proved enthralling: the roar of the crowd.
“We’re entertainers — we live for that,” said Mr. Wallenda, who has been walking tightropes since childhood.
In 2012, he walked a wire over Niagara Falls, and in 2013, he traversed the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon.
New York City’s love affair with death-defying stunts is well established, dating at least to Harry Houdini’s 1912 escape from handcuffs, leg-irons and a sealed, weighted crate that was submerged in the East River.
The daredevil Evel Knievel, dressed in his trademark red, white and blue leather jumpsuit, jumped his motorcycle over nine cars and a van in Madison Square Garden in 1971.
Three years later, Philippe Petit walked a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
The Wallenda family’s performance history dates back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 1700s.