The performances of daredevil tightrope walker Nik Wallenda have taken him between Chicago skyscrapers, over Niagara Falls and across a gorge near the Grand Canyon. He can now add the giant Orlando Eye to the list.
Wallenda successfully completed a walk across the rim of the 400-foot Orlando Eye observation wheel Wednesday morning. The 36-year-old started his walk shortly after 8 a.m. atop the city’s newest attraction, which is set to open to the public on Monday, part of the I-Drive 360 tourist complex.
Wallenda rode to the top of the 400-foot wheel and then navigated up ladders and around parts of the structure to begin his four-minute trek along its six-inch rim. He stopped at one point between capsules to wave to the assembled crowd of about 100 below.
After his walk, Wallenda took a moment to capture a selfie with his phone before riding down to the ground atop one of the wheel’s capsules.
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“We’re inspiring people to do greater things, to step out of their comfort zones,” Wallenda said afterward. “What an amazing feeling it was up there.”
Monday’s grand opening for the complex where Wallenda performed will include the wheel, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life Aquarium. The attractions are owned by Merlin Entertainments, which also operates the Legoland parks.
Some restaurants in the complex have been open since summer, and a new museum, Skeletons: Animals Unveiled!, opened Wednesday.
Wednesday’s feat came after one in November, in which Wallenda made two Chicago skyscraper crossings on high wires. Other previous tightrope walks took him to the brink of Niagara Falls in 2012 and across a Grand Canyon-area gorge in 2013.
A married father of three children, Wallenda doesn’t take his events lightly. He said that he prays, thinks about death, and practices rigorously while calculating risks.
Wallenda is the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda, who fell to his death during a tightrope stunt in Puerto Rico at 73.
Wednesday’s walk could establish a new Guinness Book record for the greatest walk at the top of an observation wheel. But because Guinness officials weren’t present, it won’t be an official record until it is certified by the organization.
The weather held up for the walk, though the skies were cloudy. Wallenda estimated the wind was about 20 mph but “not too overwhelming.” He also said the structure was “really wet” when he stepped out on the wheel’s surface.
“My shoes are soaking wet, actually, on the bottom of them,” he said.
The seventh-generation member of the famous Flying Wallendas said this week that the idea for Wednesday’s walk came during a family trip to Orlando last year.
While walking along International Drive, a tourist-rich area miles from Disney World known for its shopping and restaurants, he noticed the Eye in the initial stages of construction. But it wasn’t until months later that he was approached about staging a performance there. I-Drive360, which runs the entertainment complex where the Orlando Eye is located, paid Wallenda for the walk, his spokesman, Brett Gold said. He wouldn’t give the amount.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. Not necessarily in Orlando originally, but I’m glad that it panned out here in my home state,” said Wallenda, a Florida native and Sarasota resident.
Walenda’s next planned feat will be in August, when he is scheduled to walk a tightrope at least 10 stories above the Milwaukee Mile racetrack on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair. He said that the walk would be longest of his career.
And he’s thinking even bigger.
“I’m working on everything from the pyramids in Egypt, to a big walk in New York City, to an active volcano,” Wallenda said.