Professional daredevil Nik Wallenda will attempt to make history by walking a tightrope near the Grand Canyon, 1,500 feet in the air, on Sunday night. Wallenda, who earned his seventh Guinness World Record for tightrope-walking all the way across Niagara Falls last year, will carry out one of his most ambitious undertakings yet at 8 p.m. EDT. He will try to do it just east of the national landmark, in Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park, as Forbes noted.
In an event to be televised by the Discovery Channel, Wallenda will walk across 1,200 feet of two-inch-thick wire cables, without a harness or a net. You can watch a live stream of the tightrope walk at Discovery.com. Wallenda has not revealed how much he will be paid for the dangerous stunt by the Discovery Channel.
The so-called King of the High Wire, Wallenda, 34, comes from a family of circus performers. According to the family’s website Wallenda.com, the family traces their profession back seven generations. Wallenda’s ancestors reportedly traveled throughout the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 1700s performing as acrobats, jugglers and aerialists. However, it wasn’t until the 1900s that they became known for their high-wire prowess.
Nik Wallenda is the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda, a famous high-wire artist who fell to his death during a stunt in 1978. Wallenda said that he completes his walks without harnesses, in keeping with his great-grandfather. Several other family members have died performing stunts, too. But despite the great risks, Wallenda said he has no intention of losing his life performing.
"I wanna die in a bed next to my wife, at an old age over 100 years old. That's my dream," he said. "I don't want to die performing."
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Wallenda explained that he wasn’t afraid of his impending tightrope walk. “I think you have a choice,” he said. “You can decide whether you want to get scared by something or not. You can go into a haunted house with the mindset of, ‘This is going to freak me out,’ or go into the haunted house with the mindset of, ‘Who cares; this is all set up; it’s all gimmicks, and it’s not going to scare me at all.’"
Wallenda is so accustomed to his job that according to the Seattle Times, in 2007 he proposed to his then-girlfriend Erendira from up on the high-wire. He had just finished performing the Wallendas' famous seven-person pyramid at a show in Montreal. "Everybody climbed down," he told the newspaper. "I stayed up on the wire. My girlfriend was in the audience. I walked to the middle of the wire, knelt and asked her to marry me in front of 25,000 people."
Fortunately for Wallenda, she said "yes," and the couple and their three children, Amadaos, Evita, and Yanni now travel around the country together with circus acts.
However, Wallenda did admit there are still “definitely butterflies, definitely nerves, definitely respect, which is very important. When you do what I do, you’ve got to respect it. It is, no pun intended, a life on the line.”
That respect includes ample practice, Wallenda said. In preparation for the big event, his team built a training camp in Florida re-creating the conditions present in the section near the Grand Canyon where he will be walking. Wallenda said that in the Grand Canyon area, wind speed can be as high as 45 mph, so during practice he used wind machines blowing gusts of as much as 50 mph, Agence France-Presse reported.
“It’s not as though I get on that wire, and it’s whatever happens, happens,” Wallenda added. “I’ve actually trained my whole life that if something happens I grab that wire right away.”
Wallenda said that, unlike his great-grandfather, he has also taken added precautions by practicing hanging from the wire for intervals of 15 to 20 minutes, which could give crews sufficient time to rescue him should something go wrong.
“It’s not like I just grab with my hands like people visualize. I wrap my legs round it, my hands round it, I hug that wire like a bear hug until help comes. I’ve got rescue teams that would be with me within a minute,” Wallenda said.
He added, "The networks would love it if that were to happen because it makes incredible TV, but I have no desire to end up that way, that's for sure."
Still, despite all of his safety measures, Wallenda said that he ultimately relies on his faith to steel his nerves. “What I get from my Christian faith is that I know where I’m going to go when I die. And that affects my business, because what I do is risky, and if I die, I have peace,” he said. “I’m not scared of dying.”