Self-described as "The King of the Wire," he is known for his high-wire performances without a safety net. He holds seven Guinness World Records for various acrobatic feats, but is best known as the first person to walk a tightrope stretched directly over Niagara Falls on June 15, 2012; the feat was broadcast internationally. The walk came after a two-year legal battle involving both sides of the Canada-United States border to gain approval. For the walk he was required to wear a safety harness for the first time in his life.
A seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family, Nik Wallenda participated in various circus acts as a child. At age 13, he made his professional tightrope walking debut. He decided on high-wire walking as a career path in 1998, after joining family members in a seven-person pyramid on the wire.
He is best known for being the first person to cross Niagara Falls on tightrope, which he accomplished in 2012 in a live television special. He was also the first person to cross a Grand Canyon gorge on tightrope, which he achieved by crossing the Little Colorado River on live television in 2013.
Most recently, he and his sister, Lijana, crossed a tightrope 25 stories high over Times Square in New York City. The event was broadcast live and garnered national attention.
In 2001, Wallenda was part of the world's first eight-person high-wire pyramid. From 2002 to 2005, he performed with his family at various venues, forming his own troupe in 2005. During 2007 and 2008, he performed with Bello Nock 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, Wallenda set Guinness World Records for longest and highest bicycle ride on a high-wire 250-foot-long (76 m) ride 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. In 2011, Wallenda set a world record by performing on the Wheel of Death atop the 23 story Tropicana Casino and Resort. Later that year, Wallenda 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 had 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 teeth to hold on.
A reality show following Wallenda's feats aired on the Science Channel in 2012.
In 2013, he released a memoir entitled "Balance." On June 23, 2013, he became the first person to high-wire walk across a Grand Canyon area gorge (crossing the Little Colorado River outside Grand Canyon National Park). Wallenda is married with three children, and considers his Christian faith to be a central aspect of his life.
Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family of aerialists. His ancestors have been circus performers since the 1700s and have been doing balancing acts without nets since Karl Wallenda made the family famous for the feat in the 1920s. Nik Wallenda is a direct descendant of Karl, whom he calls his role model and his "biggest hero in life".Karl "didn’t do the ordinary. He has always inspired me", Nik explained.
Nik has called growing up in the Wallenda family an honor and "like standing on the shoulders of giants. They've created a legacy that has gone on for seven generations and I've been able to continue it along." Several members of the family have lost their lives while training or performing. In 1962, the troupe's famous seven-person pyramid collapsed, killing two family members and paralyzing Wallenda's uncle Mario.
In 1978, Karl Wallenda died after falling from a tight rope at age 73 in Puerto Rico.
Nik Wallenda has produced a variety of large-scale productions for amusement parks and similar venues in several countries. The acts often feature him alongside family members, especially his wife Erendira. Wallenda's children are sometimes part of the act. His youngest child, Evita, has been performing balancing feats since she would balance in the palm of her father's hand at six months old.
Wallenda's shows have incorporated water and diving feats, the Wheel of Death, incline motorcycles, aerial silk and hoop, the globe of death, and of course the high-wire. "We've performed nearly every circus or daredevil skill there is," claims Wallenda. "I like to mix it up", he says. "It keeps [our family] on our toes and gives the public something new to see every year."
Wallenda's father, Terry Troffer, serves as his safety coordinator, having retired from acrobatics after 36 years in the business. Troffer's brother Mike serves as chief engineer. Wallenda has never had a serious accident, describing the worst injury of his life as a broken toe while playing football.
Wallenda lies down on the tightrope while performing at Canada's Wonderland theme park Wallenda performs without a safety net or harness. "My great-grandfather taught that safety nets offer a false sense of security," he explains. He notes that a safety net is no guarantee – an uncle was killed while performing despite falling into a safety net. However, he says he does not have a "death wish in any way. I plan on living and dying a natural death when I'm old." Asked about fear, he remarked "I would say the only thing I fear is God". He adds that his Christian faith allows him to "know where I'm going to go when I die ... I'm not scared of dying."
Wallenda says that the high-wire performance is not a daredevil act or a mere stunt, but rather an athletic feat requiring great physical training. "I see a stunt as somebody who gets in a barrel and goes over the edge and hopes they don't hit a rock," he said commenting on his walk across Niagara Falls. "What I do is very calculated. I train a long time for it and I consider it more of an art. I guess I don't get offended by [people] calling it a stunt, but to me it's more of an art than anything. He aims to be "over-prepared" for every event he does, training six hours a day, six days a week.
He does ten hours of weight training and five hours of aerobic exercise each week. Even so, he says wire walking is primarily a mental skill.
Wallenda has developed several tricks that he often incorporates into his high-wire routine including stopping to make a phone call, sitting on the wire, and lying down on the wire. He is said to be "obsessed" with the technological aspects of his acts, insisting on calculating every detail himself.
When asked why he risks his life on the high-wire, he replied "I do this because I love what I do ... If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd still be doing what I do." "Walking the wire to me is life," he adds.Wallenda and his family spend roughly 48 weeks per year on the road.
As of 2013, Wallenda has a contract with the Discovery Channel for near-exclusive broadcast of his acts. He carries a US$20-million insurance policy. He has called his career "extremely lucrative, more lucrative than I would have ever dreamed of."He plans to retire at age 50.
On June 23, 2013, Wallenda highwire walked across the Little Colorado River Gorge in Navajo territory outside Grand Canyon National Park's borders about 40 miles east of the main tourist facilities
The Reuters news agency described the location as simply "the Grand Canyon", while the Associated Press described it as a "gorge near the Grand Canyon."
According to the United States Geological Survey, the Grand Canyon geological area includes the Little Colorado River Gorge.A Grand Canyon National Park spokesperson said the walk "would not have been approved" to take place in the Park due to regulations that "events must not unreasonably impair the park’s atmosphere of peace and tranquility or have an unacceptable impact on the experience of park visitors.
In 1999, Wallenda proposed to his future wife Erendira (née Vasquez) on a wire 30 feet (9.1 m) high during a performance in Montreal, Quebec. Having just performed a seven-man pyramid act with his family, he stayed on the platform while the family descended. He walked to the middle of the wire and got down on one knee, proposing to Erendira in front of 25,000 people. A week later, they were married.
Wallenda credits God for his success, saying that what he does on the high-wire is a gift from God. He grew up in a "a Bible-believing, God-fearing family" and describes himself as a "born-again Christian
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