In “Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda,” starting at 8 p.m. ET tonight (Sunday, June 23) on Discovery Channel (and live in Eastern and Central time zones), the scion of the famed “Flying Wallendas” family of acrobats and daredevils will begin his attempt to traverse the Arizona’s Colorado River Gorge, near the Grand Canyon, on a two-inch-thick cable.
You can watch the live stream here.
Unlike his successful Guinness World Record attempt to cross Niagara Falls last year, the 34-year-old husband and father will not be wearing a safety harness, saying that his concerns about potential issues with the harness outweigh its usefulness.
In an interview on May 30, Wallenda talks to Zap2it about his preparation: “I started training when I was two. That’s when I started walking the wire. But we’ll do some very, very specific training starting on June 6, with wind machines, which are in the form of airboats, actually, because I live in Florida. They make great winds of up to 90 miles an hour, with huge fans.
“Well create ramps to create updrafts, simulate worst-case of what I can experience when I’m there.
“But when we put up a cable — It goes up starting on the 4th, I won’t be there, because I’ll be doing the ‘Today’ show in New York — it’ll be about the same distance but low to the ground. It’ll have the same tension, the same feel to it.
“It’ll be only about 8, 10 feet off the ground, but the ends go up. The ends are about 25, 30 feet high, but it’s not 1,500 feet high.”
Asked why he does this, Wallenda says, “My great-grandfather Karl said ‘Life is on the wire; everything else is just waiting.’ For seven generations, 200 years, since the 1780s, it’s what our family’s done. Just like my kids — I’ve got a 10-, 12- and 15-year-old, and all of them walk the wire already.
“Never in my life have I said ‘It’s time for practice,’ or ‘Get on the wire.’ It’s in the backyard. It’s what we do. it’s fun; we play.”
Wallenda also has a larger purpose.
“I hope my life inspires people,” he says, “that what seems impossible isn’t impossible if you set your mind to it. What I do, people can’t relate to it. ‘How do you walk on a cable that small?’ ‘Because I train for it, focused on the training. It’s my dream.’
“So I hope what people get out of it is that you can overcome any challenge as long as you set your mind to it. You can do anything you want in life, even if it’s walking on a cable the size of a nickel a thousand feet above the ground.”
This area near the Grand Canyon does offer challenges different from those of Niagara Falls.
“The biggest,” Wallenda says, “are the winds themselves. They’re so unpredictable. With Niagara, they were actually more predictable. The reason is, there’s so much mist in the air in Niagara, you can actually see the wind, calculate the wind. Grand Canyon, you can’t see it.”
But Wallenda does plan to enjoy the view along the way, saying, “Absolutely. Of course. It’s something that I’ve done my entire life. I’m pretty comfortable. There’s nerves involved. I’m human. There’s danger involved.
“If you watch Niagara, you saw me communicating with my father. I’m very alert. It’s not as though I go into a zone. I do have sort of a zone, but I’m a showman, too. That’s all part of it.”