TODAY   |  June 24, 2013

Nik Wallenda: I ‘wasn’t prepared’ for moving cable

Daredevil tightrope walker Nik Wallenda talks about his death-defying walk across the Grand Canyon Sunday night, saying it “differed quite a bit” from his training. He added that he was so wound up after the stunt, he “didn’t sleep at all.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> breathtaking high wire act across the gorge near the grand canyon .

>> the whole world walked as nik wallenda walked on a two inch steal cable, talking, praying at times. sometimes kneeling along the way until he reached the other side. nik wallenda is at the sight of that historic walk. either you slept like a baby last night or you were too wound up to sleep at all.

>> it was the second of the two for sure. i didn't sleep at all.

>> what was it like up there in terms of all the preparation? how did reality differ from your expectations.

>> well, it differed quite a bit. i trained for worse cases in my hometown of sarasota, florida while i was training but i wasn't prepared for the movement of the cable. we knew it was going to vary by temperatures throughout the day would change the temperature in the cable but it dropped down to about 52,000 pounds. we wanted it at 65 and it was moving pretty wildly under my feet.

>> you're used to the unpredictable nature of this line of work but were there any truly heart stopping moments for you.

>> you know, there was no point where i thought i was going to fall for sure but there were points where i was thinking i wish i could just relax. but there was no point. i was hoping to talk to natalie and willie while i was working on that cable. there was no way. i was working for every foot to get across the wire.

>> we're watching one of the moments where you went down and took a knee and did a midair tim tebow . were you simply trying to stop the wire from moving?

>> that's right. as i walked these cables they're no stabilization in them. so it build ace rhythm in there and if i kept walking it would get worse and worse so i tried to stop a little bit by the direction of my father, stop and wait a minute.

>> you talk about your dad. he said at one point can you change your cadence.

>> he wanted me to slow down, speed up, bigger steps, smaller steps. that's important in doing a walk like this. it's easier said than done. your goal is to get across the wire. it's not to slow down or speed up. it's just to make it across safely.

>> we know you're concentrating and we heard you say your prayers many times over. what else goes through your mind when you're walking across in the long 22 minutes ?

>> if the wire was more stable i would have been able to relax for sure and enjoy it more. i did have three opportunities out there. one was just after i walked over the edge and when i knelt down in the middle i actually looked down and i was thinking about my great grandfather that lost his life on a cable and he's why i do what i do and when i made it three quarter of the way across i was able to look down one more time.

>> you talk about your great grandfather losing his life. that would be the last thing you would want to be thinking about while you're out there on that wire.

>> well, you know, he's an inspiration to me. everything he did paved a road for me to be able to fulfill my dreams. i go everything i do to honor him. it's a reality. he did lose his life. we know why he lost his life. it had to do with rigging and that caused him to go down to the safety of the wire. he was 73 years old and couldn't hold on. worse case last night i would have gone down to the wire and held on and waited for my rescue team. we learned there's a time to retire.

>> and i hate to ask you nick what have you done for us lately but are you already thinking ahead to what your next stunt might be?

>> absolutely. i'm already two or three ahead of this one.

>> that was a tease. congratulations. it was heart stopped.

>> thank you so much.

>> all right. willie geist and natalie morales were out there to witness the drama and host that special coverage. guys, good morning to both of you.

>> good morning, matt.

>> good morning.

>> nick talked awhile ago about the tension on the wire, wasn't sure if there was enough tension. seemed like plenty of tension for me. what was it like from your seat?

>> nerve racking. my heart stopped a couple of times, especially when nick first stepped on the wire and said the wire is really dusty i think at that point i was like oh no. about two and a half minutes is when he crouched down to the wire. that's when i first started getting nervous.

>> in a lot of ways he put us to sleep with his confidence. he said i got this. it's no problem. he wasn't cocky but he was confident. but when he started the walk we realize there's movement in the wire. the winds are whipping up. we could feel them in our position where we were anchoring the coverage and the gusts would come through and we would grab each other and look over at the wire.

>> i love that imagine of you guys standing on firm ground hugging each other as nick risks his life.

>> we know you guys were hoping or planning to be able to talk to nick while he was crossing. that's something he elected not to do once the walk was underway. did that make you a little bittnbi bit nervous.

>> when he started the walk, before we knew there was trouble. the way he was talking was inspirational and the conversation with his dad was far more compelling than anything natalie and i would have brought to it. so we actually made a decision before nick decided i don't want to talk to anybody that we would let the moment play out.

>> and i think it was very clear too that nik needed to focus and we were like we don't want to distract him in anyway.

>> you guys have been a part of this. the wire is right there behind you. give you any reason to want to give this a shot?

>> i was offered by the electrical company to ride in the rescue basket across but i think i'll pass.

>> i was in the fetal position up in the trailer.

>> natalie , willie, thank you. nik wallenda again, congratulations. thanks for joining us this morning.