Nik Wallenda: A Life on the Line
By Amy Reid
The 700 Club
““My great-grandfather said, "Life is on the wire and everything else is just waiting,”" says Nik.
Nik Wallenda’s life is always about keeping balance. Nik faces unique challenges as a normal guy with a not-so-normal job.
“It's hard for people to relate to somebody who walks on a cable the size of a nickel, you know, a thousand feet in the air,” Nik says, “And I understand that.”
Nik’s family has been performing professionally for more than 200 years. His great-grandfather, Karl, brought high-wire performing into the family in the early 1900’s and worked with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus for decades.
“He created the seven-person pyramid on the wire and walked over almost every stadium in the United States at that time,” Nik explains. ““He really created the legacy and I really kind of live in the shadows of him. Everything I do is kinda to pay tribute to him because I wouldn’t be where I am if he didn't pave that road and pass on that mantra that I live by which is "Never give up."”
Nik was brought up performing, but he didn’t always plan to follow in his family’s footsteps.
“As I was growing up my parents were really struggling to make ends meet,
And I saw that,” Nik recalls. ““And my parents really said, "You know, this isn't a career path you should take. Go to school, study, go to college and go a different direction." And I really focused on that and I got accepted to go to Southeastern Bible College in Lakeland, Florida, I planned on going there and then eventually going off to become a pediatrician. But I struggled because I had so much passion for performing.””
Then Nik’s family was invited to perform a seven-person pyramid for the first time since it fell in 1962, and two family members were killed.
“And I thought it was going to be my final good-bye,” says Nik. “Thought I was going to perform in Detroit and we can at least kinda regain this legacy and show that our family can still do this stuff.”
The performance was successful, and the extensive media coverage got Nik’s attention.
““And I set out from that day, I decided, "You know what? I am going to carry this on, but I'm going to carry it on in a big way and I'm going to make sure to do big events that the whole world knows about,"” says Nik. “And that was really my mindset from that point on.”
Nik went on to set seven world records, but it wasn’t always easy.
“There were still always struggles and I've been extremely blessed since then and had some amazing opportunities. Of course, Niagra Falls was one of those huge ones,” Nik says. “One of the most memorable walks of my career was going back to San Juan, Puerto Rico where my great grandfather did lose his life in 1978, and recreate that walk.”
Nik was raised in a Christian home and his faith has always been a part of his life.
“There's no question in my mind that God has laid these desires on my heart to carry on this family industry,” Nik declares, ““I think that God has given me a very unique talent and that I can use that to bring glory to his name. There was actually a headline in the paper not too long ago, "The Tim Tebow of the Tightrope" which is really cool. But you know, he used that platform of playing football and was really able to touch a lot of people's lives. And I consider that I have that, you know, I have an amazing platform as well.””
Nik trains hard for each performance and says that he doesn’t consider his feats death-defying.
“I don't see what I do as being more dangerous than a police officer,” says Nik. “What I do is extremely calculated. I don't think God keeps me, holds me on the wire as I'm walking across, but God's given me a unique talent and it's up to me whether I train properly for that. But I've also trained my entire life to catch that wire. If I were to fall, gravity pulls you down. I train for the high winds; I train on a cable the same length--and over-train. I've walked a wire in training in 90-mile-an-hour winds before and that didn't blow me off. And we have rescue crews standing by that can be at me anywhere on that wire within 60 seconds to grab me off and pull me to safety. It's important I always maintain that high level of respect for what I do and the dangers involved with it.”
In fact, Nik says that his biggest concern during his walk across Niagra Falls was the tether he was made to wear.
“It was something that I was very unaccustomed with, unfamiliar with and am very uncomfortable with,” he explains. ““So I'm excited that I'm able to do this next walk, you know, in the way that my family's done it for generations. The tether can actually cause you to trip up. It could tangle around your neck, it could tangle around – you never know what's going to happen. My great grandfather had an older brother that fell into a net and was bounced out and killed, and his mindset that he's passed it on to next the generations was, "If you have a net or a tether your mindset is you can use that. So you become complacent, you become relaxed."”
Nik’s immediate family is a big part of his life. He and his wife, Erendira, both come from a long line of performers and have three children together.
““It's so important to me that every time before I do any of these big events I get in a circle and pray with my family and I always say,“Give God the glory. Let God get the glory out of what I'm doing,”” says Nik. “It is very, very important to me that people – that they don't praise Nik Wallenda, but they praise God for these amazing abilities. And I think that that's part of showcasing like the Grand Canyon. To me, myself, it's hard to deny that there is a God when you see the Grand Canyon. But that's my heart and that's why I like to show these amazing places off around the world. I would walk across Niagra Falls, the Grand Canyon if no one was there. It's about fulfilling a dream. It's important to me that people are inspired by what I do that they see it as an inspiration that their dreams are possible too.”
It all may seem a bit nerve-wracking, but Nik says his most peaceful moments have been on the wire.
““While I'm on that wire people can't understand, “How can you be peaceful?”” says Nik. “Well, when I'm praising God there's no one else to talk to and it's my own quiet time. You know, there's that prayer closet. Well, the wire often, is and has been, my prayer closet.”
Nik has written a book about his experiences, entitled “Balance.” He says that it’s often difficult in life to keep that balance, but it helps to focus on what’s most important.
“I was walking across Niagra Falls and there were raging waters on my left and below me waters were boiling underneath and mist flying in front of me,” Nik recalls. “But instead of focusing on all those problems that I had around me, I focused on the other end, just very, very similar to our walk with Christ. It's not always rosy. It's not always easy. Life isn't always, you know, a dream. But with God all things are possible and there is that light at the end of the tunnel.”
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