Tightrope walker takes stroll above beach

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IOL aug 10 tightrope walk

REUTERS

People line one of the walkways to the beach as they watch tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walk the high wire over the California Avenue beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Atlantic City, New Jersey -

Nik Wallenda, the American man who recently walked across a wire strung over the Niagara Falls, hit the beach for a stroll on Thursday - 100 feet (30 metres) above the beach, to be exact.

The daredevil's latest public stunt was less visually spectacular than his Niagara conquest on June 15, when he crossed a wire between the roaring falls' US and Canadian banks in front of a worldwide television audience.

But his performance in the New Jersey resort of Atlantic City, 100 feet up over the sand on a wire stretching 1,300 feet (396 metres), featured a crucial difference: no safety harness.

Wallenda, from the Flying Wallendas family of tightrope walkers, was forced by ABC television, broadcaster of the Niagara event, to be attached to the wire, as it did not wish to risk showing Wallenda's possible death to viewers.

On Thursday, though, it was just the way a highwire act should be: Wallenda, a wire, and an approximately 20 foot balancing pole Ä a truly death defying act cheered by thousands of beachgoers and fans.

About half way across, Wallenda stopped and raised his right index finger in salute.

“Nik!” people screamed from below, while a news helicopter whirred above to film the spectacle. Not that the fuss would have bothered ice-cool Wallenda.

He says he's been on wires since he could walk, the seventh generation in the family business.

The New Jersey wire was half the height of the one across Niagara. But while the beach walk may have appeared easier, compared to the terrifying looking cauldron of water and spray in the Niagara Falls, Wallenda offered a different perspective.

For him, walking on a wire is the same regardless.

“There's no difference between two feet and 1,000. Anything over 60 or 70 feet is impressive,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

And at 100 feet, he pointed out, “If you fall, you're dead.”

Wallenda was the first person to walk across the stormiest portion of the Niagara Falls. However, previous attempts on relatively easier sections were made with no safety harness, sometimes with fatal consequences.

After his triumphant feat there, Wallenda said he hoped eventually to walk over the Grand Canyon, which is three times as wide as the Niagara Falls.

The acrobat's achievement adds to the lore and legend of the Wallenda family, famous for astonishing audiences around the world with their jaw-dropping stunts executed at dizzying heights.

Their fame really took off in 1978, when they were made the subject of a popular made-for-TV movie, “The Great Wallendas.”

Nik Wallenda frequently pays tribute to the family patriarch, his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, the German-born founder of the business who died aged 73 in 1978 while attempting to walk between two tall buildings in Puerto Rico. - Sapa-AFP


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