SANTA CRUZ – Nik Wallenda is stopping by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Saturday for a quick walk, then a short motorcycle ride. But if the name sounds familiar, you realize there’s a little more involved.
The scion of the legendary high wire-walking family plans to walk atop the moving Ferris wheel, then ride a motorcycle up a thin wire to the top of the 125-foot-high Double Shot tower ride. And oh, yeah, his trapeze artist wife will be suspended below.
“We’re keeping up with the times and continuing to do what our family’s done for seven generations – doing the unexpected,” Wallenda, 32, said Thursday as he was getting ready to set up rigging for the Boardwalk feat. “I’m excited.”
The Boardwalk is sponsoring the free-admission stunts to kick off the amusement park’s annual spring break festivities.
Viewers will be able to see the noon Ferris wheel event from the beach and from the east end of the park by the San Lorenzo River. The second event, at 5 p.m., will have Wallenda riding his lightweight Yamaha Vertigo up a 350-foot wire from the beach to the Double Shot tower and back. His wife Erendira, of the famous Flying Vasquez family of trapeze artists, will hang from a trapeze under the motorcycle during the risky ride.
“These are some of the most incredible stunts ever attempted in the Boardwalk’s 104-year history,” said Boardwalk promotions manager Karley Pope. “We are privileged to welcome such a talented member of the Great Wallenda family back to the Boardwalk. It’s been a long time.”
Wallenda, who made his entertainment debut in a clown suit at age 2, has been walking wires since he was 4. He holds several Guinness world records including Highest Tightrope Crossing by a Bicycle – he rode across a wire suspended 260 feet in the air at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas; Longest Tightrope Crossing by Bicycle – he rode a 235-foot wire; and before that, he, his parents and sister set a record with an eight-person pyramid atop a wire.
The Ferris wheel and Double Shot stunts won’t break any records, but Wallenda says it is good to be at a place where his family members once performed.
The Great Wallendas extensive traveling-circus roots date to 18th century Europe. His great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, born in Germany in 1905, brought the family circus entertainment business to America during the last century, gaining notoriety for building multi-level chair pyramids on high wires. He performed at the Boardwalk in 1975, three years before he died in a tragic accident while performing in Puerto Rico.
In 1976, Stephan Wallenda, a nephew to Karl Wallenda, walked the Boardwalk’s Skyglider cable with Steve “Unique” McPeak. Nik Wallenda said he was unable to obtain authorization to do the same feat this year.
In the past week, Nik Wallenda has performed in Texas and Los Angeles. Santa Cruz is the latest stop on a worldwide tour that is being documented by a 30-person team for a six-part Discovery Channel series about the Great Wallendas.
Karl Wallenda’s most famous walk was a 1,200-foot-long trek across the Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia, where 30,000 people watched as the 65-year-old legend performed two separate headstands at more than 700 feet in the air. Eight years later, equipment failure caused his death in Puerto Rico.
Nik Wallenda hopes to complete the same stunt where his grandfather lost his life and one day walk a wire across the Grand Canyon. He already has the permits to do so, according to his personal website.
When he’s not performing, Nik and his wife live in Sarasota, Fla., with their three children, ages 13, 10 and 8 – all of whom know how to walk on wires.
IF YOU GO
Nik Wallenda, King of the High Wire
WHAT: Daredevil stunts by Nik Wallenda of the famous Wallenda family will kick off spring break at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
WHEN: Saturday. Wallenda will walk atop a moving Ferris wheel at noon. He will wide a motorcycle to the top of Double Shot ride at 5 p.m.
WHERE: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz
COST: Free, open to the public
DETAILS:426-7433 or 423-5590
Note: The Boardwalk rides will be open daily starting Saturday through May 1.
April 20-22: Special family-friendly activities are planned at the Boardwalk including appearances by SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Star Wars Clone Trooper, UFC fighter Dan ‘The Outlaw’ Hardy, and Casey Anderson, ‘The Bear Guy’ from National Geographic Wild. Musical performances on the beach by School of Rock All-Stars, Sing Blue Silver, and Stung.
This article appeared here.