Nik Wallenda took in a unique view of Atlantic City as he successfully pulled off his 1,300-foot long, 30-minute high-wire walk Thursday, to the cheers of 150,000 spectators 100 feet below him.
The fact that so many people went to see him made Wallenda, 33, feel the walk was worth it.
“The winds were great. It was amazing to look out over the beautiful Boardwalk,” Wallenda said. “Life is on the wire. Everything else is just waiting.”
Wallenda began his walk at 3 p.m. on an almost perfect day. He performed his high-stakes stunt without a safety harness.
The high wire stretched over the beach from his start point at the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel on Sovereign Avenue to the end at Tropicana Casino and Resort at Brighton Avenue. The huge crowd — Wallenda provided the audience estimate during his post-walk news conference — crammed between the Atlantic Club and Tropicana, while tens of thousands more spread out north beyond Tropicana.
Crowd estimates varied. City Emergency Management Director Tom Foley estimated a much larger crowd, 250,000, witnessed Wallenda's walk.
After the walk ended, Wallenda said he felt a couple of gusts of wind reaching 20 to 25 mph, but for the most part, the National Weather Serivce forecast of 9 mph winds and partly sunny skies held up.
Some of the tens of thousands who watched Wallenda sat under umbrellas on the beach, while others were perched in anticipation along the Boardwalk. Some beachgoers stood in the ocean to stay cool on a day with temperatures in the 80s. Others rested inside the scattering of boats just off the shore.
Wallenda, who was dressed in a red T-shirt and dark Bermuda shorts, did his walk holding onto only his balance pole.
The high wire was stabilized by 80 ropes stretching off the east and west sides of the wire that were held in place by 90 volunteers. Wallenda felt comfortable enough to lift his right hand off the bar to wave to the throngs of people below or to give a thumbs-up sign several times.
As he walked, gulls glided nearby and several helicopters hovered. Wallenda pointed to one of the helicopters during his walk but said he didn’t notice the birds.
The crowd watched spellbound as Wallenda’s balancing pole would slowly dip to his left and his right as he made his way across the wire. When he reached different sections of the crowd, applause and roars of approval rose up from people as they watched a man accomplish something few people on the planet could do.
While Wallenda walked the wire up high, Brigid C. Harrison followed him on the ground on the Boardwalk.
“He’s out of his mind. ... You could see he was taking rather large steps,” said Harrison, 47, of Galloway Township, who watched Wallenda’s televised walk across Niagara Falls on a wire June 15. “It’s so impressive. You can tell the level of confidence that reflects his years of training and his faith in himself.”
During the news conference after the walk, Wallenda said he loves being on the wire, and his time up there was exciting and fun.
“Training for Niagara Falls was perfect for this with the wind coming off the ocean,” said Wallenda, who added that he talks to Jesus Christ while he walks across the wire.
The only thing that surprised Wallenda was the amount of sand on the cable. He briefly considered walking across barefoot.
Dana Palmieri, of Atlantic City, ventured over to the Boardwalk to see Wallenda in action.
“It was very exciting. It caused me a lot of anxiety. He seemed like he had it under control,” said Palmieri, 62.
Wallenda said the city was highly cooperative. He said he chose Atlantic City for his high wire stunt because his family has a show in the Showroom of Tropicana, titled “Beyond the Falls: Nik Wallenda & The Wallenda Family Experience,” which starts Sunday and runs through Sept. 22.
For those who want to see more of Wallenda’s high-wire skills live or who missed his Atlantic City walk, he will be part of a two-tiered, three-person pyramid performed on a chair and two bicycles on a high wire during the Tropicana show.
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