Christian High Wire Artist Nik Wallenda Unmasks in New Book, Untethers for Walk Across Grand Canyon

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By Leonardo Blair , CP Reporter
June 8, 2013|2:22 pm

As far as training goes, I train all the time in Florida. Five days a week, I try to be on the wire three to four hours a day. Specific training will start actually on Thursday (June 6) where I'll train on a wire close to the same length but lower to the ground.

During that training, I'm really learning the feel of the cable the move of the cable, building endurance. Really a lot of that is mental though, I could get on a wire right now, not in any arrogant way, but I could get on a wire right now and walk a mile. I have no question. If there was a wire stabilized properly, I could walk a mile. But for this case the wire moves a little bit and it's really about that mental, just convincing myself, just proving to myself that you can still do it. You have enough endurance to do it, instead of walking the full distance.

It's about 1,400 feet. I'll probably walk three times that distance during training. So I'll walk nearly a mile in training. So that I know when I get over that Grand Canyon, I'm ready for it.

We'll also recreate winds, we have air ducts coming out which will blow some wind on me to recreate kind of what I'll experience when I'm out there as well. But again, a lot of that is mental. I've trained in winds up to 90 miles an hour when I've walked the wire before. Sideways, leaning into the wind. But again, in training down low in a safe environment. And really that's all about mentally preparing myself and saying "hey, you've walked at 90 miles an hour this is only 35." It is such a mental game.

CP: Are going to use a harness?

Nik: No. Niagara Falls was just a one-time requirement.

CP: Do you ever get scared?

Nik: Fear is a choice. It's funny, I say this all the time, "fear is a choice but danger is real." Now Will Smith is using it in his movie and I don't think he took it from me but I've said it for a long time. But it's very true. You could walk into a haunted house and go, "I'm gonna be scared to death this is creepy," or you could walk in and go, "this is nothing but gimmicks. These people are paid to scare me. Who cares?"

But it's all in your mental state. I don't fear what I do, I respect what I do. When I walk up to the edge of a 10-story building and look over the edge, my heart jumps and goes, "it's a long way down, that's dangerous." I don't shake, I don't get "it's debilitating," it's not like I grab unto the edge and hold on, but I respect the fact that what I do is very dangerous and it takes a lot of training, a lot of prep work for it.

CP: So you train not to look down?

Nik: I look down all the time.

CP: Do you get vertigo?

Nik: No, that wouldn't be a good thing.

CP: What do you think about when you are performing?

Nik: You know it's pretty peaceful. There's nothing. All your troubles in the world go away. You know, if I was in an argument with my wife that day and I got on the wire, I don't think about that argument that day from when I step on, to when I step off. Now as soon as I step off, I think about it again. But when you're on that wire, you are so focused on what you're doing.

Often, I talk to God while I'm on the wire. I find that peaceful and relaxing and He's the only one up there listening to me.

CP: Some sports players have been known to play when they are sick, have you ever performed sick?

Nik: What I do, there is no backup, there's no extras. I can't call in my extra and say "you gotta fill in for me today." I performed on Ringling Brothers for about two years straight. I performed in about 90 cities in two years. There was a time where I was performing, I was performing on something called the wheel of steel or the wheel of death, it's basically a giant wheel that I stand in with a partner and it goes up 40 feet and comes back down close to the ground, about two feet away from the ground. We do somersaults over each other, walk inside, jump rope, everything you could imagine.

There was a show where we got to the bottom and I said, "I'll be right back" and I jumped off, I went to the bottom and I puked. I ran back, jumped on the wheel and the audience never knew what happened.

I fractured my ankle at the intermission of a performance and held a seven person pyramid for two weeks after that. When your picture is on the poster, if you're going to see David Copperfield perform a magic show and somebody else shows up it doesn't work.

CP: What role does your faith play in your performance?

Nik: My faith plays a role in my performance because it rolls out of my life. It is my life. My life is based on my faith. I guess the biggest role that it plays is that if I do fall and die I know where I'm going.

People often ask, "are you testing God?"

My answer is "absolutely not." If I was testing God, I'd walk out in the middle of an interstate in the rain while a car was coming at me at 70 miles an hour and say "God, if you're real the car will stop." I don't believe God holds me on that wire in any way. I believe that God gave me a very unique ability to walk the wire and it's up to me whether I want to train properly or whether I want to prepare for it.

Some of the greatest Christians, if there is such a thing, I've seen those people in several occasions, lose their life in a car accident and other situations and I don't believe that's because God didn't care about them or didn't love them. But that's because we all have our own choices.

We make the choice to get into the car to drive there that day. God gave us a choice. We have a choice whether we want to serve God, or love God, fear God or not. That's our decision.

It's my decision whether I want to get on that wire or not. And again, I don't think God keeps me up there but I definitely know where I'm going if I fall.

Nik Wallenda on Fear and Faith on the High Wire

Nik Wallenda on Fear and Faith on the High Wire

 

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