Who Is Nik Wallenda? 5 Facts About Famed Tightrope Walker & Aerialist


Tightrope walking legend Nik Wallenda is at it again, this time walking across the mouth of an active volcano on March 4. Here’s five things you should know about Nik before he completes his latest challenge.

Nik Wallenda and his nerves of steel are about to complete his most daring feat yet. The acrobat, 40, will walk above the lava pool of the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua on a one inch-thick wire, journeying 1800 feet as magma boils beneath him. Masaya is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, erupting 13 times in the past 30 years. The risky tightrope walk over the so-called “mouth of Hell” is expected to last 30 to 35 minutes. While Nik is confident that he can pull this off, he’s obviously anxious about the possibility of falling into a pool of 2000-degree lava. “I have never until this morning walked on a cable of this diameter,” the daredevil told ABC News before the March 4 stunt.

“For the last week I’ve been waking up in cold sweats because of this walk. Every step is dangerous, but I will become more and more relaxed as I get through that gas for sure. We’re walking over a volcano with deadly poisonous gases — it adds a layer of concern. I’ll be wearing goggles, [but] what if they fog up, what if they’re not fixed right and my eyes start burning and I can’t see? There are so many unknowns that I cannot prepare for.” Here’s what you should know about Nik before he completes his latest, deadliest stunt:

1. He is a seventh generation member of the famed acrobatic Wallenda family. Nik can trace his lineage back to European circus performers in the 1700s. He’s a direct descent of Karl Wallenda, his great grandfather who started the famed Flying Wallendas aerialist troupe in the 1920s. Nik has called Karl his “biggest hero in life.” He sadly died at the age of 73 in a 1978 tightrope accident in Puerto Rico. The fall was aired on live TV.

2. He learned to walk a tightrope solo by the age of four. His parents, Delilah Wallenda and Terry Troffer, had a circus act and he first tried walking on a tightrope assisted by his mom holding his hand at the age of two. His father worked on the craft with him and by four he could walk a tightrope unassisted, albeit two feet off the ground for safety purposes.

3. He almost became a doctor. While Nik made his professional tightrope walking debut at 13, circuses began to lose their popularity and his parents encouraged him to attend college after graduating from high school. He was accepted to college with thoughts about becoming a doctor, but changed his mind in 1998 when, alongside his family members, he helped recreate Karl Wallenda’s seven-person pyramid. He decided to make tightrope walking his profession.

Nik Wallenda
Nik Wallenda performs a walk on a tightrope with the Skylon Tower in the background during training in Niagara Falls, NY. On June 23, 2012, he became the first person to tightrope walk the brink across Niagara Falls.

4. He became the first person to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Fulfilling a dream he had since childhood, Nik walked 1800 feet across the widest part of Niagara Falls in 2012, going from the American to the Canadian side. After the successful crossing, he said it was far more difficult than he expected, as the mist made it hard to see at times and would push him in different directions. He followed it up the feat the following year when in 2013 he walked a 1500 feet line across a gorge in the Grand Canyon.

5. He walked above Times Square with his sister, Lijana. The Wallenda siblings pulled off an incredible stunt in 2019. Nik and Lijana each started from opposing skyscrapers 25 stories above New York City’s Times Square, as a terrified audience watched from below. The duo were about 1000 feet off the ground while going between 1 Times Square and 2 Times Square. They met in the middle, where Lijana was forced to crouch down as Nik walked over her. The siblings successfully completed the walk, and everyone was able to breathe again.

Volcano Live with Nik Wallenda airs at 8:00pm ET on ABC.

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