After weeks of preparation high above the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel parking lot, Nik Wallenda, of the celebrated “Flying Wallenda” family, successfully walked across the perilous expanse of Niagara Falls on an 1,800ft tightrope. On June 15th, 2013, Wallenda started his journey on United States soil, finishing his death-defying stunt across the gorge on the Horseshoe Falls side in Ontario, Canada.
Wallenda, a 33-year-old father of three, had been dreaming of the day he would get the chance to cross the legendary falls via tightrope. According to Nik, his anticipation began upon first visit to Niagara Falls at only 6 years of age. He began lobbying both US and Canadian governments for the opportunity to bring his dream to fruition two years ago, and was finally given the go-ahead from Ontario’s Niagara Park’s Commission.
He began training immediately in the parking lot of the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel where a squad of firemen used their high-powered hoses to spray the aerialist, simulating the authentic conditions of cogent spray from the massive falls. All practice runs were open to the public, and certainly attracted a substantial crowd to the casino hotel; most certainly a factor in its decision to allow Wallenda to train on the property.
When the time finally came, an estimated 13.1 million viewers tuned in to watch Nik Wallenda perform the highly anticipate, death-defying act of traversing Niagara Falls on a steel tightrope, two-inches in diameter. Doning the special elk-skin moccasins his mother had fashioned just for the occasion, as the grip is better when moist, Nik finished the stunt in approximately 25 minutes. Just before reaching the Canadian side of the falls, he stopped walking, went down on one knee and graced the crowd with a blown kiss, then ran the remaining length of the tightrope to the end in glorious triumph.
In its original design, Wallenda was not supposed to be protected by any type of harness or protective gear of any sort. However, ABC, the network that broadcasted the event worldwide, paid for a percentage of the costs to perform the Niagara Falls tightrope stunt and, in return, demanded that he be harnessed. Nik had no choice but to comply, but was greatly disappointed and made known his discord saying he “felt like a jackass” wearing it.
Wallenda is a member of a seven-generation family of aerialists, and no stranger to the hazards of his occupation. Several members of the Wallenda family have met a tragic, untimely demise performing precarious stunts throughout the years.
In 1962, two members of the Wallenda family were killed at the Detroit State Fair Coliseum when a human pyramid suddenly collapsed. Another family member was paralyzed in that same dreadful accident. Soon after, another terrible stunt-related disaster resulted in the death of two more of Nik’s family members.
The American aerialist’s great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, was one of the most famous daredevils of all time, and coincidentally the founder of the Flying Wallendas circus act. He performed amazing stunts all his life until 1978 when, at the age of 73, his luck ran out. He fell 10 stories to his death while attempting to walk a tightrope across the Coronado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.