On June 15, 2012, Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a wire. Wallenda is the great grandson of Karl Wallenda, founder of the Flying Wallenda’s, who fell to his death at age 73.
The event led to a dispute between Wallenda and the City of Niagara, as Wallenda disputed any obligation to pay for the city for $25,000 in unpaid overtime bills for police officers and firefighters.
Nikolas “Nik” Wallenda (born January 24, 1979) is an American acrobat, aerialist, daredevil, and high wire artist. Described as “The King of the Wire”, he is known for his high-wire performances without a safety net. He holds seven Guinness World Records for various acrobatic feats, but is best known as the first person to walk a tightrope stretched directly over Niagara Falls on June 15, 2012; the feat was broadcast internationally. The walk came after a two-year legal battle involving both sides of the Canada–United States border to gain approval. For the walk he was required to wear a safety harness for the first time in his life.
A seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family, Nik Wallenda participated in various circus acts as a child. At age 13, he made his professional tightrope walking debut. He decided on high-wire walking as a career path in 1998, after joining family members in a seven-person pyramid on the wire. In 2001, Wallenda was part of the world’s first seven-person high-wire pyramid. From 2002 to 2005, he performed with his family at various venues, forming his own troupe in 2005. During 2007 and 2008, he performed with Bello Nock in a double version of the Wheel of Steel that he helped invent. In 2009, he set new personal bests for highest and longest tightrope walks, completing a total of 15 walks above 100 feet (30 m) in the air that year.
In 2008, Wallenda set Guinness World Records for longest and highest bicycle ride on a high-wire 250-foot-long (76 m) ride at 135 feet (41 m) above the ground in New Jersey. He nearly doubled the height record in 2010 to 260 feet (79 m). On the same day in 2010, he upped his personal best by tightrope walking over 2,000 feet (610 m) in a single performance. In 2011, Wallenda set a world record by performing on the Wheel of Death atop the 23 story Tropicana Casino and Resort. Later that year, Wallenda and his mother tightrope walked between the two towers of Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico. The feat was a re-creation of the one that had killed Karl Wallenda, Nik’s great-grandfather and primary source of inspiration. On June 10, 2011, Wallenda hung from a helicopter 250 feet (76 m) off the ground using only his teeth to hold on.
A reality show following Wallenda’s feats aired on the Science Channel in 2012. In 2013, he released a memoir entitled Balance. On June 23, 2013, he became the first person to high-wire walk across a Grand Canyon area gorge (crossing the Little Colorado Riveroutside Grand Canyon National Park). Wallenda is married with three children, and considers his Christian faith to be a central aspect of his life.