Nik Wallenda “King of the High Wire”
Tightrope walking his way into the record books, this aerialist enjoys a good walk where none have gone before.
Walking over the mouth of an active volcano is not everyone’s idea of taking a morning stroll, but Nik Wallenda is no ordinary person. He recently walked on a thin steel cable stretched 1,800 feet across the mouth of the molten Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua. Wearing a safety harness and gas mask, he traversed the 2,000-degree cauldron in 31 minutes, pausing briefly to regain balance as hot winds whipped up around him. It was his longest walk, and another notch added to his eleven Guinness World Records. Take a moment to watch his breathtaking feat right here…
Wallenda’s daredevil feats without the use of safety nets have been wowing audiences since 1992. A Sarasota, Florida native and seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas, he carries on his family’s tradition of aerial acrobatics, and daredevil tightrope walks. As a child, he participated in various circus acts. At age 13, he made his debut as a professional tightrope walker and decided to make a career of it in 1998.
Record Setting Pace
The first time he went into the record books was in 2001 as part of the world’s first eight-person high-wire pyramid performed at Japan’s Kurashiki, Tivoli Park. He recalls, “it was a landmark experience for our profession, as well as our family and me personally.”
His first entry into the Guinness World Records was in 2008 during a live broadcast on The Today Show in New Jersey for the longest and highest bicycle ride on a high wire that measured 250 feet long and 135 feet high. In 2009, he started traveling the country with his Walk Across America Tour, completing 15 performances on high wires measuring 100 or more feet above the ground and finishing off the tour in his hometown of Sarasota.
Wallenda’s performance in 2010 at the Bahamas resort, Atlantis Paradise Island, won him another Guinness World Record for the highest bike ride on a wire, shattering his previous record by nearly double at 260 feet above the ocean.
In 2011, he performed the Wheel of Death off the roof and over the side of Atlantic City’s 23-story Tropicana Casino and Resort. He set a world record for the highest height that the Wheel has ever performed, and it was the first time ever off the side of a building.
After that performance, he and his mother performed together, walking between the two towers of Puerto Rico’s Condado Plaza Hotel. It was a re-creation of one that killed his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, who was and still is his inspiration. He says, “To be able to walk in his exact footsteps is an extremely huge honor, and I did this for him as much as I did it for my family to get some closure.”
The same year, above Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, Wallenda set his sixth world record while suspended by a helicopter 250 feet in the air. He hung from a trapeze, starting with two arms and ending with just his teeth. He says the training “was very difficult. It was very painful. I had neck problems for months afterward.”
Among Wallenda’s many feats, he may be best known as the first person to cross Niagara Falls, which was live telecast by ABC in 2012. It took two years of negotiating between Canada and the United States, and was the first time in his life he was required to wear a safety harness. It was something he dreamed about doing as a child. Tens of thousands of people amassed on the U.S. side to witness his death-defying stunt, and on the Canadian side, an estimated crowd of 120,000, add to that an estimated 16 million television viewers. His feat stirred an interest in circus and circus arts around the world.
The Science Channel began to air his feats on a reality show. The following year his memoir Balanced was published. That same year, Discovery Channel live televised Wallenda becoming the first person to walk a high wire over a Grand Canyon gorge that crossed over the Little Colorado River.
Then in 2014, Discovery Channel aired live coverage of Skyscraper Live featuring Wallenda’s two tightrope walks between three skyscrapers in Chicago. The feat set two Guinness World Records, including one for walking the steepest incline on a tightrope between two buildings and one for the highest tightrope walk while blindfolded.
Walk by Faith
Wallenda credits his Christian faith to carry him through not only his aerial feats but for daily living. He says that his high-wire abilities are a gift from God. He is self-described as a born-again Christian and raised in “a Bible-believing, God-fearing family.” Wallenda and his family join in prayer before every high wire walk. He says, “The Bible says to pray without ceasing, and I’m always praying.” Wanting to set a good example, he strives to lead an upright life and wants to be thought of as just a regular guy.
Thriving on challenges, he says, “Don’t tell me, ‘It can’t be done’ because I’ll find a way to do it.” He lives by the mantra “Never Give Up” and believes anyone can achieve success through hard work. His family is close-knit and supportive of each other, although his grandmother tends to close her eyes when he’s performing dangerous stunts. In the backyard, Wallenda keeps a wire two feet off the ground for the kids to play with. “Kids want to do what parents do,” he says, but won’t prevent his three children from choosing their own careers.
What’s Up Next?
Ever since he was a youngster, he wanted to become a celebrity and receive global recognition. Some of the places he’d like to wire walk include crossing the Bosphorus continental divide in Turkey, Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower, and pyramids in Egypt. Keeping his eyes open for aerial opportunities wherever he goes, he often quips, “Oh, I could string a wire from here to there and walk there.”
He has performed his never-before-seen feats in every state of the U.S. and across the globe. Next up is an exciting performance at Legoland Florida, in April. He’ll “walk the plank” with a balancing pole specially created with Legos.
True to his beliefs, he upholds his family legacy and has proven to “Never Give Up.” As for fear, he says, “Fear isn’t a concept I understand. Fear isn’t a feeling that I’ve encountered. Fear has nothing to do with the universe that I inhabit.” He’s publishing a new book about practical advice on overcoming fear called Facing Fear. You can learn more about the amazing Nik Wallenda at nikwallenda.com.