NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario — There was “wind coming from every which way,” mist so powerful it clouded his vision and an unfamiliar wire beneath him, but daredevil Nik Wallenda didn’t let that stop him from becoming the first person to walk on a tightrope across the Niagara Falls.
He took steady, measured steps Friday night for 1,800 feet on a wire across the widest part of the gorge of the roaring falls separating the U.S. and Canada, accomplishing what he said was his childhood dream — albeit wearing a tether.
“I feel like I’m on cloud nine right now,” an exuberant Wallenda told reporters after his feat, which he performed before an estimated 112,000 people crowding the shores of both countries and millions more who watched a live television broadcast.
“I hope what I do and what I just did inspires people around the world to reach for the skies,” he said.
He described a breathtaking view during the nighttime walk illuminated by spotlights that “compared to nothing.”
“There was no way to focus on the movement of the cable,” said Wallenda, 33. “If I looked down at the cable there was water moving everywhere. And if I looked up there was heavy mist blowing in front of my face. So it was a very unique, a weird sensation.”
He said he accomplished the feat through “a lot of praying, that’s for sure. But, you know, it’s all about the concentration, the focus, and the training.”
The seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas had long dreamed of pulling off the stunt, never before attempted. Other daredevils have wire-walked over the Niagara River but farther downstream and not since 1896.
“This is what dreams are made of, people,” said Wallenda, who wore a microphone for the broadcast, shortly after he stepped off from a platform on the American shore.
Along the way, he calmly prayed aloud.
After passing the halfway mark, Wallenda expressed fatigue. “I’m strained, I’m drained,” he said. “This is so physical, not only mental but physical.”
Toward the end, as he neared the Canadian shore, Wallenda dropped to one knee and pumped his fist while the spectators cheered. He broke into a playful run about 15 feet from the finish line, where his wife and three children waited.
“I am so blessed,” he said later. “How blessed I am to have the life that I have.”
ABC televised the walk and insisted Wallenda use a tether to keep him from falling in the river. Wallenda said he agreed because he wasn’t willing to lose the chance to perform the walk it took him well over a year to win permission from two countries to do. Such stunts are normally illegal. ABC’s sponsorship helped offset some of the $1.3 million cost of the spectacle.
Wallenda said he thought about the tether, which was secured at his waist and dragged behind him, at several points along the 30-minute walk but wasn’t hindered by it as he’d feared.