Nik Wallenda: Chicago tightrope walk will make ‘incredible postcard’

Nik Wallenda
Nik Wallenda poses for a photo on the roof of the Leo Burnett Building in Chicago on Sept. 17.
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

At his training facility in Sarasota, Fla., daredevil Nik Wallenda is training five hours a day to top himself. And when you consider his last stunt involved walking a tightrope across a portion of the Grand Canyon, that’s no small feat.

But he’s going to attempt it anyway on Nov. 2, when the tightrope walker will perform a two-part stunt between skyscrapers in Chicago.

For the first part, Wallenda will walk a tightrope approximately 600 feet in the air at a 15-degree angle across the Chicago River between Marina City’s west tower and the Leo Burnett Building. Then Wallenda will return to the west tower to walk another tightrope between the west tower and the east tower of Marina City blindfolded.

“I’m confident this will make an incredible postcard,” he said.


The entire event is to be broadcast live on Discovery as “Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda.”

Last year, Wallenda drew 13 million viewers for his walk across the Grand Canyon. It was during that walk that the seeds of Wallenda’s latest challenge were planted.

Though he’d prepared extensively for the walk, he said, he didn’t anticipate the amount of sand and dirt that would get under his contact lenses, hampering his vision.

After the walk was over, Wallenda said, he decided to finally get Lasik surgery on his eyes.


“My vision is extremely important,” he said. “But my whole life is challenging myself. I began to wonder if I could [walk the tightrope] with my eyes closed.”

He said that an aunt who had lost a leg to cancer and continued to walk the tightrope with her prosthetic leg was a particular inspiration to him.

At his training facility, he said there’s a lot more to take care of than just practicing his balance.

“I oversee all the rigging,” he said. “I order my own rigging. I’m a lot more hands-on than just the cable.”

The rigging is the thing that keeps the cable secured between the buildings, and it’s no surprise that Wallenda is so concerned with it. If the connection goes bad, no amount of balance will help him.

The cable he’s practicing on at his Sarasota facility is just two feet above the ground, but Wallenda said he is doing his best to prepare for conditions high above Chicago’s streets.

He’s brought in giant wind machines to simulate weather conditions, but he hasn’t stopped there: “The team will sneak up and blow an air horn or smack my foot,” he said. “They’ll hit my balancing pole, knock it five or six feet in the wrong direction. They’ll push my hips and shoulder.”

While Wallenda has been pushing himself physically his whole career, he said he was really shocked by the reaction to his very vocal expressions of Christian faith during his Grand Canyon walk. Many people noted his repeated utterances of “Thank you, Jesus.”


“That was me living my life,” he said. “If you don’t like it, put the TV on mute.”

Whether the sound is on or off, millions of viewers will surely tune in to see if Wallenda can pull of his latest challenge.

Follow me on Twitter: @patrickkevinday

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