06 JUL 2012: Dreams can be fulfilled. That’s what ace daredevil Nik Wallenda did as some 13-million viewers sat glued to their TV sets on the night of June 15th hypnotized by his every move as for 26 minutes they watched a man walk over mist. I had an opportunity to talk to him a few days later when he was back at his usual gig – risking his life on a high wire.

Until now, no one has ever attempted a high wire crossing over the treacherous Horseshoe Falls in this manner. Nik traversed a narrow two-inch wide cable spanning 1800 feet, the length of six football fields, taking him from Goat’s Island in the US to Table Rock in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The harrowing journey was witnessed by an estimated crowd of 130,000 spectators on both sides of the border.

I caught up with Nik in between shows at his current gig. He is performing at the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson Missouri until August 4, as part of the Fabulous Wallenda Family Circus.

“I’ll be on the wire three different times today on three different occasions, risking my life six days this week. Eighteen times I’ll do that,” he said.

Here’s our exclusive interview:

IK: How did you get into the Zone?

NW: When you have passion and love what you do, it just makes it that much easier. I am very religious, spiritual - to be honest and find my peace in God. So, as I was actually sitting there getting ready to take off I couldn’t believe how calm and relaxed I was just looking at the wire.

IK: Take me through your day.

NW: There was nothing different. I live an ordinary life but happened to walk across Niagara Falls that night. Okay, I got up at 7 am and filmed a lot of TV like CTV as well as GMA (Good Morning America), did my interviews then checked all the rigging again. Put my eyes on it one last time - then went back to the hotel. I had lunch with my family. Really it’s not as exciting as you think. There is no ritual, this is my life and a lot of people don’t understand that because many see it as a sport. It’s so normal to me – there is nothing abnormal at all.

IK: Do you wear any lucky charms?

NW: Other than my wire shoes which my mom makes, I had no sentimental things. It’s nice to have something special my mom makes. It’s a comfort thing and over the years I have worn many pairs. Oh yes, I did have a small angel pin given to me by a little boy who is fighting leukemia and I wore that for him in his honour.

IK: What about those elk suede skin moccasins?

NW: (Laughs) Since the walk they are put away and will hopefully be in the Smithsonian. My management has been in contact with them.

IK: How about all your other equipment?

NW: There’s nowhere to buy this stuff other than to make it yourself. My dad is a certified welder, my uncles are engineers. They do all the design. Most of our equipment is custom-made even the cable was made specifically for that walk. We couldn’t have any grease on the cable.

IK: What’s your secret to balancing?

NW: It’s a lot of core strength plus a lot experience. It was that experience that got me over the Falls. That wire was moving everywhere under my feet. It really came down to experience. That’s my best friend on these wires. There is never anything the same about them; there is always something unique or awkward about the wire. They are all unique.

IK: We now know your dream was to walk over the Falls. What was your other dream?

NW: My other dream was to walk into that mist and disappear. And from what I have been told by viewers in a million messages and by my wife I walked into that mist and walked out on the other side.

IK: So what did it feel like, standing there?

NW: Just standing in the middle of the Falls – amazing! It was totally awesome to see the Falls from that angle and to feel the mist. It’s somewhere where no man has ever gone before. Some people have compared it to being similar to the walk on the moon - it’s pretty awesome.

IK: You prepped and trained for that moment. What was the biggest surprise for you?

NW: The fact that the wind was coming from every direction was something you can’t train for. We knew it was going to happen but we couldn’t really recreate it. I think that was the biggest surprise.

IK: How about the water flow?

NW: They kept the water flowing at full force in my favour. This decision was only made a couple of days before my walk.

IK: How confident were you at the half-way mark?

NW: I did feel confident. At no point did I feel like I was going to lose my balance and fall or freak out. I think that it’s just the enormity of the Falls that is fascinating. I stand back now and look at the pictures. It doesn’t look far but there is nothing you can compare it to. There are no cars in the area, no people you can see. It’s just unbelievable how small I am looking at these photos.

IK: What thoughts did you have as you crossed?

NW: I always think of my great grandfather (Karl Wallenda) because everything I do, I do to pay tribute to him. So the thought of him, the thought of my family, and the thought of the harness, (how I would love to have taken it off), the only reason why I didn’t was out of respect for the network and the fact that executives would have been fired on the spot if I took it off. All in all, I try to be a role model, a man of integrity; and the fact is, if I did try to take off that harness what kind of example would that be when I gave my word?

IK: Did the tether distract you at all?

NW: A bit, yeah. It’s something I’m unfamiliar with. I never practiced with it. The day before I got on the wire with no balance and just walked over to one of those pendulums to make sure it would travel. We hung an extra anchor down by the pendulum way out of the way where you couldn’t even see me if you were looking at the Falls. But that was the only time I ever wore a harness in my entire life. It was the day before and that was kind of out of stubbornness too.

IK: Okay on a completely different topic where was your last vacation?

NW: My last vacation was in Niagara Falls June 13-June 16. That’s because I consider my life a vacation. I perform in places where people vacation - like at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. I performed in the Bahamas for a world record. I got to take fourteen of my family and best friends including my mom and dad, my sister, wife and kids. We got to enjoy the place for a week. (Ilona’s note: It’s the world’s highest bike ride without a safety net - 26 storeys between the Royal Towers of Atlantis and The Cove).

IK: If you were to replay this night again what would you do differently?

NW: The only thing I would do differently would be to not have on that harness. But that wasn’t an option because financially I didn’t have an option. If I did have the choice, I would not have worn that.

In total, Wallenda’s dream cost over $1.3 million.

One of the conditions of the walk was self-financing the mission and Nic’s fundraising efforts continue. The latest was on indiegogo.com which ended last week with $50,000 raised to help offset the costs.

Meanwhile Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati wants to erect a statue to the world famous aerialist by Niagara Falls’ Table Rock. You can vote on that proposal at: http://alturl.com/viewy

Images courtesy of Kirsten Schubert

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

Read more from Ilona Kauremszky

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