We bet all of you know by now who the man of the moment is. Yes, you are right, his name is Nik Wallenda. He is 35 years old and he represents the seventh generation of a family who lived for tightrope walking. On 2 November 2014, people in Chicago had the opportunity to see an unbelievable event. Nik Wallenda had the courage do to something that almost all individuals are afraid of even thinking about – he walked on tightrope at 500ft in the air without a safety net or a harness! First, he crossed the Chicago River on a tightrope linking two high buildings.
But to make it more difficult, the walker asked for a 90 degree inclined rope. While thousands of people were watching him with bated breath, Nik Wallenda set a world record with this tightrope walking. Then, he walked on a rope between the two Marina City towers. What was the special element this time? Well, he was blindfolded! In one minute and 17 seconds, Nik Wallenda set his second world record for the day. Among his other amazing tightrope walking, we have to mention the one across Colorado River Gorge and the one across Niagara Falls.
Also, it would be interesting for you to know that Nik Wallenda started his career before even being born – his mother, Delilah, did a pretty dangerous representation when she was six months pregnant! Tightwire is all about balance. The performer has to walk on a tensioned wire, positioning his entire weight over his legs. Balance it is also gained by using different tools like balance poles (this is what Nik Wallenda has used), umbrellas, fans, rings, hats, clubs, etc.
There are many different styles of rope walking
In one category, we have tightwire, highwire and skywalk. They all consist in walking on a tensioned wire, but at different heights. What Nik Wallenda did can definitely be categorized as skywalking. In another category there are some styles for which the rope doesn’t have to be that tensioned. In slackwire, the walker is the one who adds pressure on the rope. In slacklining, the nylon wire is dynamic and it stretches and bounces. The freestyle slacklining allows the performer to make both static and dynamic maneuvers. In French, tightrope walking is called funambulism. In Korea, this performance is called jultagi and it is considered a cultural property. Unlike any other style, jultagi also involves telling a story to the audience through a music play. Tightrope walking here is performed during public holidays and is made up of a rope walker, a clown and musical instrument players. Among famous tightwire walkers, we must mention:
• Maria Spelterini as the first woman to have crossed the Niagara Falls;
• The Flying Wallendas, known for their pyramid walks;
• Jay Cochrane, with multiple records – The Great China Skywalk, the longest and highest blindfolded skywalk, the first person to perform a skywalk in Niagara Falls, and the longest distance for skywalking (11.81 miles accumulated).