After doing the tightrope walk across the Niagara Falls, American acrobat Nik Wallenda is eyeing the Grand Canyon.

Nik Wallenda, a professional daredevil uses science to cheat fate and puts his life at risk on a regular basis, attempting stunts around the globe. He has achieved many feats and broken several records — the highest and the longest wire walks. He recently did the tightrope walk across the Niagara Falls and set a new world record. Excerpts from an interview:

You belong to the seventh generation of the Flying Wallendas high-wire act, what were your thoughts when you set out to do the stunt? Why Niagara Falls?

My family has been performing in the area since the 1780s. For over 200 years we’ve been into such feats. I lead quite an exciting life to say the least. Crossing the Niagara Falls on a tightrope has been a dream since I was about six years old, and it’s something no one in the world has ever done before.

What kind of preparation helped you?

Training is the most important. For the Niagara Falls walk, I actually trained on the same cable. We’d stretch it between two cranes but low to the ground and I’d train in heavy winds and mist because that is how it is over the Falls. Of course, engineering and science play a role as well. That is mostly taken care of by my uncle Terry who is my head engineer.

Which stunt of your forefathers did you grow up listening to?

My whole family walks the wire, my parents, my sister, my wife, even my three kids! It’s really just a lifestyle; I picked it up from my parents when I was just two years old. I would see them practising in the backyard and say, ‘I want to get on the wire’. At that age, my mom would hold my hand and walk me back and forth. At age four I was walking on my own and it has became part of my life. When I turned 18, we were asked to recreate the human pyramid stunt my family had attempted in 1962, so we went back to the same location and redid it. I remember seeing satellite trucks for miles and we were on every TV show around the world and I said, if there is this much attention on what I do, then I need to carry on this legacy and that’s what I’m going to do.

You said your feat was like paying tribute to your ancestors, and to your hero, Karl Wallenda. How did he inspire you?

Karl Wallenda was my great-grandfather and was the founder of The Flying Wallendas. He died in 1978 when he was walking between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At that point they didn’t use scientific techniques. He’s the one who brought our family to the level that they reached. He was a visionary and he was able to come up with ideas. He didn’t do the ordinary. He has always inspired me and remains my biggest hero in life.

What’s your next plan?

My next aim is to walk across the Grand Canyon. I already have the permits. I also plan to do such walks all around the world.

(Danger By Design, a programme featuring Nik Wallenda will premiere today at 8 p.m. on Discovery Channel.)


Across the Niagara Falls on a tightropeJune 16, 2012