CHICAGO — Daredevil Nik Wallenda wowed the world with back-to-back walks on a tightrope between Chicago skyscrapers without a safety net or a harness, performing one of them blindfolded, as a crowd gasped and cheered.
“I feel incredible,” Wallenda said at a news conference afterward the night of Nov. 2.
He said strong winds and the steeper-than-expected angle of the first high wire caused him to hurry his performance. Wallenda had practiced at a 15-degree angle but said the wire was actually at 19 degrees. “That cable looked like it was going straight up,” he said.
Thousands of cheering fans packed the streets around the city’s Marina City towers to watch the 35-year-old heir to the Flying Wallendas’ family business.
It took Wallenda about six and a half minutes to walk the 454-foot (138-meter) stretch from the Marina City west tower to the top of a building on the other side of the river.
“I love Chicago, and Chicago definitely loves me,” said Wallenda as he walked that wire, with the crowd below him screaming in support. “What an amazing roar!”
The next stage of Wallenda’s high-wire event he undertook blindfolded — a 94-foot (28-meter) walk between the two Marina City towers. He made the stretch in little more than a minute.
The Discovery Channel used a 10-second delay for the broadcast, which would have allowed producers to cut away if anything went wrong.
Journalists covering the event signed waivers relinquishing their right to claim emotional distress if they witness a catastrophe.
Two of his previous televised tightrope walks — over the brink of Niagara Falls in 2012 and across the Little Colorado River Gorge in 2013 — drew about 13 million viewers each.
Residents of Marina City were asked not to use laser pointers, camera flashes or drones that could interfere.
“It was amazing. I saw it with my own eyes,” one spectator, Cynthia Garner, said afterward. “I was afraid when he first started, but once I saw that he didn’t hesitate and just walked, I wasn’t scared for him no more.”
A year before Wallenda was born, his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death during a tightrope stunt in Puerto Rico. He was 73.
What’s next? Wallenda has said he next wants to recreate a 1,200-foot-long (365-meter) high-wire walk made famous by his great-grandfather. The stunt in Georgia included two headstands on the high wire.
“I’ve trained a bit to do a headstand on the wire, but I’ve never done it publicly because I’ve always said if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it on that walk with him,” Wallenda said, explaining that he wants to use vintage film of Karl Wallenda’s walk to create the illusion of the two of them sharing the high wire.
“My dream is to actually walk the wire with my great-grandfather,” he said.
(CARLA K. JOHNSON)