If you don’t take risks, you’re not living life fully. As John Paul Jones once said, “It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who cannot risk will not win.” Maybe that’s what Nik Wallenda repeats to himself as he’s performing death-defying stunts, such as tightrope walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon — a feat he completed successfully June 23.
The Wallendas are no strangers to such acts, however. The family patriarch, Karl Wallenda, was born in Germany in 1905 to a household already engrossed in the circus life. Karl practiced high-risk acts throughout his life — including crossing the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia in 1970 — until the day he died, during a tightrope walk in Puerto Rico in 1970. Karl passed on his traits and talents to his family of circus performers, including great-grandson Nik.