By Stacey DuFord

Acrobat Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope June 15 in front of an estimated13.1 million viewers, becoming the first person ever to cross the river over the Falls themselves. It took him 26 minutes to make the trip, over a distance of about 1800 feet. He made the whole thing look easy, and practically ran the last few steps.  The last person to cross the Niagara River on a tightrope did it in 1896, but it was further downriver. Tightrope walks over Niagara have been outlawed by both the U.S. and Canada for generations, but Wallenda obtained special permits from both countries.

ABC broadcast the event live, but they had it on a five-second delay, just in case something went wrong.  And, the network forced Nik to wear a safety harness.  Wallenda is a seventh-generation circus performer. His great-grandfather died in 1978 when he fell off a tightrope during a performance. And two members of his family were killed in Detroit in 1962 during their signature performance – the seven-person chair pyramid: Two pairs of performers walk the wire, each supporting another aerialist on a pole. Those two aerialists, in turn, carry a pole upon which the seventh member of the troupe balances in a chair.

Nik is already hyping his next stunt.  He said, “I just happen to have the permit to be the first person in the world to walk a tightrope over the Grand Canyon.  And we’ll start up that process very soon.”

In more Wallenda news, The Science Channel premieres Danger by Design on June 18. Nik and the Flying Wallenda acrobatic troupe take on aerial challenges all over the world. It begins with a wire walk in the Bahamas.


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