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Man on a Wire
Stephanie Apstein
June 17, 2013
The scion of a famous family of aerialists is thinking big—like Grand Canyon big
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June 17, 2013

Man On A Wire

The scion of a famous family of aerialists is thinking big—like Grand Canyon big

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Nik Wallenda's job is about narrow margins. For the man who crossed Niagara Falls on a two-inch-wide wire a year ago and who will walk 1,500 feet above the Grand Canyon on June 23, not much has to go wrong for calamity to strike. But courting disaster is in his blood.

Wallenda, 34, is a seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallenda family. His parents, struggling to get by as circus performers, convinced him that their way of life was in decline. In 1997, even though he'd been walking on wires since he was two, Nik began filling out paperwork to enroll at Southeastern University, in Lakeland, Fla. That's when his family got the chance to perform in Detroit, to re-create a pyramid that had killed two Wallendas and paralyzed one in 1962. "One last hurrah," he says. But the number of camera crews at the event changed his mind. "I don't think it's dying; it's just changing," Wallenda decided. "We've got to go bigger."

Niagara Falls was Wallenda's greatest challenge in terms of preparation—he got laws in two countries changed, and he practiced with fire trucks spraying him. No hoses were needed to prepare him for the Grand Canyon—Tropical Storm Andrea hit during his training in Sarasota, Fla., and its 51-mph wind gusts were ideal practice.

Wallenda's goals include walks over every MLB and NFL stadium. He's settled on his next location, but he won't reveal it—he'll make the announcement after his Grand Canyon walk—but the options are endless. "Every city that I drive through, I'm looking up," he says.

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