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Niagara Falls daredevil walks tight rope -- sans safety net -- across Florida highway

3:55 PM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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(NBC NEWS) - The daredevil who famously tight-roped across Niagara Falls last year risked his life again; this time, walking a wire 180 feet above a Sarasota, Fla., highway on Tuesday.

But unlike during the highly publicized stunt last summer, Nik Wallenda, 34, didn't use a safety harness or tether to catch him if he stumbled.

During his walk, he carried a 42-foot-long balancing pole that weighs 45 pounds. 

"It is windy, it's very windy," Wallenda could be heard saying while performing the walk Tuesday. "It's uncomfortable, of course, but it's all about the training. You don't expect it to be this windy but this high up and the water here, it just makes it that much worse."

Although his contract for the live televised Niagara Falls walk last year required him to wear a harness, Sarasota officials gave him a green light for the walk without the safety line.

"I'm risking my life," Wallenda said. "Now it's just a lot of practice and prayer, that's about it."

A Sarasota native, Wallenda said he received warm praise and support for his stunt from other members of his hometown.

"He is the legacy of the Wallenda family," Sarasota City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell told NBC affiliate WFLA in Tampa, Fla. "We have love for Nik. We have passion for Nik. We have faith in Nik and trust in Nik."

An outspoken critic of using safety nets during high-wire walks, Wallenda comes from a circus family that included his great grandfather, Karl Wallenda, who fell to his death during a performance in Puerto Rico in 1978.

"I have to give props to my great grandfather because I can almost guarantee you that he would have stopped in the middle of this cable and did a headstand," Wallenda said. "That just shows you what an amazing performer he was."

Self-described as "The King of the Wire," Wallenda has set six Guinness World records for various acrobatic stunts, including the record for highest bicycle ride on a high wire -- 260 feet above the ground. He also hung by his teeth from a helicopter 250 feet off the ground, and he said he plans to tight rope across the Grand Canyon. 

Wallenda's walk will launch his three-week run as a performer at Circus Sarasota.

By Andrew Mach, Staff Writer, NBC News

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