Wallenda announces he will walk along the 400ft tall Orlando Eye, the largest observation wheel in the U.S. on April 29, as part of the attraction’s grand opening ceremony. Instead of crossing a wire, he will walk from one capsule to another along part of the rim of the wheel. He will not use a balancing pole and there will be no wire to catch him if he falls.
If I have any missteps, I can’t stop. [I want to] to show a little bit of diversity in the family.
Wallenda successfully completes both legs of the walk. The first leg, between Marina City west tower and the Leo Burnett tower across the river, takes 6:51 minutes at a 19-degree angle, taking the world record for steepest tightrope walk between two buildings. His average height over the Chicago River is about 630 feet, roughly the same height as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The cable to the Leo Burnett building is at a 19-degree angle to solve some tension issues, making it more grueling than the 15-degree walk he had trained for. His father, Terry Troffer:
Aside from the cold weather and the wind, I am concerned on how it will fatigue Nick on his incline walk
From the Leo Burnett tower, he takes an elevator to the street and returns to the Marina City west. At 500 feet, the walk to the Marina City east tower is the highest blindfolded tightrope crossing. His first few steps into the blindfold walk:
You guys watching think I’m crazy, but this is what I’m made for
He had planned to grab onto the wire and stay there if he lost his balance or slips. He practiced slipping and then clutching the cable at his training grounds in Sarasota.
A still from Discovery Channel’s live footage shows the view downwards from the wire as a blindfolded Wallenda makes the crossing between Marina City west and east towers.
The Chicago Tribune outlines some details of how the stunt is performed. Wallenda’s leather walk shoes are handmade by his mother, Delilah. He has a new pair for the Chicago walk. The balance pole is 24 feet of seamless, stainless steel tubing that weighs 45 pounds. The first wire is about 3/4 inch steel and can hold 70,000 lbs, about the weight of 20 midsize cars. The second wire is rated at 42,000 lbs.
Dan ‘Spider-Dan’ Goodwin says he will be watching Wallenda’s skyscraper walk in Chicago, the same city where he was nearly killed in 1981, as city firemen turned a firehose on him at the orders of the fire commissioner as he clung to a climbing hook on the outside of the 37th floor of the Hancock Centre. He says Wallenda, who has the support of city authorities unlike Dan’s illegal climbs in the 80s, will be in the zone:
Something happens when your life is on the line. There is no pain. There is no tired. When Nik steps out on that wire, he’s going to be there. He has to be in that place. We all have one thing in common. When it comes time to do what we do, we drop into this zone. There is bliss.
Wallenda tells The Daily Beast that it makes him more nervous to wear a safety tether, as he has to drag the clip and cable along the wire, and he hasn’t trained for the extra resistance:
It’s nerve-wracking wearing a tether. The truth is, the dangers are real—I know; I’ve trained for them, I’ve prepared for them, and everything I do is calculated. I’m doing this because I love what I do. I know it’s hard for people to comprehend.
None of the previous six generations of Wallendas have worn safety wires. He says the danger is part of the appeal:
That’s why people watch. There’ll be more hits on Facebook for an accident then there’ll ever be for making it safely, because that’s what people want to see. As much as they say they don’t, they’re fascinated with it and that’s why we break records every time I do these TV specials.
Wallenda will walk uphill at a 15-degree angle from the Marina City west tower to the top of the Leo Burnett tower across the Chicago river, and then walk blindfolded between the two Marina City towers. (Infographic here.) The towers have previously appeared in film when Steve McQueen chased a fugitive around the west tower’s parking ramp in The Hunter. They were also featured on the cover of Wilco’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Discovery will broadcast the walk with a 10-second delay, allowing cameras to cut away if Wallenda falls. He will not use a net or harness for the walk. Preparations have taken months, with helicopters lifting cable to rooftops, roads closed, and clearances obtained from the FAA and Coast Guard. Residents of the towers have been asked not to use laser pointers, camera flashes, or drones, and are being prevented from grilling food. Wallenda has practiced the walk in Florida.
Wallenda says his parents actually tried to push him out of the family business:
I actually felt like my parents did everything they could to get me out of the business. In fact, I know they did. I was going to study to become a pediatrician, because the business had struggled financially and my parents were having trouble making ends meet.
He had struggled with going to college, because he had such a passion for performing. The family business has turned around:
It’s centered on continuing to keep the name in the spotlight.
The Chicago walk, with the added challenge of potentially testing wind conditions, will push the envelope:
It is definitely the most challenging walk I’ve ever done.
Wallenda talks about the possibility of freezing up during a walk, what wind conditions would make him postpone the upcoming Chicago skyscraper stunt, and supporting his children whether they want to walk tightropes or choose another profession. Safety factors:
We’re all taking calculated risks. I train for the worst cases, and if the conditions are worse than that, I simply won’t walk that wire that day. But I train to grab that wire and hold on for up to twenty minutes. And I have rescue crews who can get to me within ninety seconds anywhere I am on that wire, so it’s much more calculated and much safer than most could fathom. I preach about it all the time. My industry is completely contrary to me. Normally our job is to scare everybody and tell them how dangerous it is. But I’m a realist and I preach the truth, which is I believe what I do is extremely calculated and very safe.
Wallenda talks about Karl, and how his life and career provided inspiration for the rest of the family:
My great grandfather, Karl Wallenda, said life is on the wire, everything else is just waiting. And for our family, that’s true. He is the driving force behind our family. He always was…I’ve always though, How can I pay tribute to him, not to ever outshine him but to shine the light on what he did.
Wallenda talks to the Chicago Tribune about the upcoming walk, revealing that he has promised to cover the city’s costs of additional police, firefighters, traffic realignment and related services for the event. He also carries $20 million in liability insurance for the safety of the rigging crew, citizens and the integrity of the buildings. Wallenda:
It’s complex, but it’s simple. It’s simple because I’ve done it for so long.
Wallenda tells RedEye Chicago about his dream stunt:
Walk a wire over an active volcano. I’m actually actively working on it.
Wallenda releases a memoir, ghostwritten by Ritz, that details his family history, Christian faith, and his circus career. Ritz pitches the book to Wallenda after his Niagara walk.
One of the challenges of writing a book is there’s things you probably don’t want people to know about you … It was very emotional telling these stories at times … It is a challenge to reveal your life story.
On his faith:
That’s clearly the grounding that I stand on. That is who I am. I couldn’t tell my story without that.
Wallenda goes on Hannity’s Fox show to talk about his Grand Canyon skywalk and what he wants to do next. Hannity:
Do you ever get nervous, ever?
I respect what I do, deeply. I don’t get nervous to the point of fear
He says he wants to walk between the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, but New York City officials won’t give him the permissions he needs for the stunt.
Wallenda walks across the Little Colorado River Gorge, part of the Grand Canyon in Navajo territory outside Grand Canyon National Park’s borders. The height of the wire, which is two inches thick, is 1500ft (460m), seven times higher than the Niagra crossing.
Wallena has to stop due to wind gusts and to stop the cable bouncing. He praises Jesus Christ as he goes. He runs the final steps and kisses the ground, completing the walk in just under 23 minutes.
It took every bit of me to stay focused
Walenda performs a 600 ft walk, 180 feet above the downtown of his hometown, Sarasota, Florida.
Props to my great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, because I can almost guarantee you he would have stopped in the middle of this cable and have done a headstand.
Wallenda’s crew has just 15 minutes to adjust the stabilizing cables, and he jokingly complains at times that the wire is “really sloppy.”
Holy crap. Come on guys, it’s horrible…Who do I need to spank when I get down?
Wallenda makes the longest unsupported tightrope walk in history, some 1,800 feet (550 m) across the widest part of Niagra Falls. The walk starts a dusk and takes 25 minutes. Throughout the walk he is able to communicate with ABC reporters live. As he steps onto the wire he tells them:
It’s a beautiful view … A dream in the making
About half way across the wire Wallenda crosses into Canada (he has taken his passport with him). He is buffeted by 14mph winds.
That mist was thick. It was hard to see at times. The wind was wild. It’d come at me one way and hit me from the front, and hit me from the back
I’m drained … My hands are going numb. I feel like I’m getting weak.
Near the end he gets down on one knee, and blows a kiss to the crowd.
Wallenda talks to The View before his Niagara Falls walk. Goldberg:
It wasn’t like you weren’t going to go into the tightrope-walking business
That’s absolutely right, no pressure at all, right? I started walking a wire at the age of two
In a recreation of the act that killed Karl Wallenda in 1979, Wallenda and his mother walk a 100-foot-long (30 m), 120-foot-high (37m) high-wire between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Delilah and Nik start at opposite ends of the wire. When Delilah reaches the middle of the wire, roughly the spot Karl had fallen, she sits down on the wire. Nik steps over her and the two continue to opposite ends of the wire. Nik also kneels down on the wire and blows a kiss in honor of his great-grandfather’s memory.
This has been a dream of mine to recreate this walk. 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…I can’t even put it into words. It was so emotional.
Wallenda sets the record for the world’s highest bike ride on a cable 135ft high and 250ft long from the roof of the Prudential Center in Downtown Newark, New Jersey. In the first part of the performance Wallenda crosses the wire on foot. Halfway across, he sits down and calls the Today show hosts:
It’s a little windier than I expected it to be. It feels OK.
Near the end of the walk Wallenda stops, rested the pole on one thigh and waves to the crowd. Resuming his journey, he suddenly wobbles and buckles at the knees, squatting on the wire.
I actually slipped. I lost focus there for a moment” because of some unexpected tape on the wire
Wallenda then crosses the high-wire on an ordinary bicycle with the tires and handlebars removed. In the final part of the ride, the bike slides backwards.
The back wheel started to slip … It was a little nerve-racking at the end.
Wallenda regains control and finished, then jumps onto the roof of Prudential Center, where he hugs his wife and three children.
Makes his debut as a professional tightrope walker at age 13. He has been practicing since his first walk as a toddler.
One thing that was passed on from generation to generation in my family, over seven generations in 200 years, was never give up. That’s the way we live.
Nik Wallenda is born Nikolas Wallenda in Sarasota, Florida to Terry Troffer and Delilah Wallenda.He is a seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas aerialists family. The family, of Austro-Hungarian descent, have been circus performers since the 1700s. They were made famous in the 1920s by Nik’s great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, for their high-wire balancing acts without nets. Karl died during a high-wire performance in Puerto Rico in 1978.
My great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, was my biggest hero in life, my biggest inspiration behind everything I do.