TheBlaze's Carly Hoilman contributed to this report.
Nik Wallenda stunned the world when he tight-rope walked across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon last month. The stunning feat was streamed live for the world to see, putting Wallenda's dare-devil talents -- and his faith -- front and center.
With his Christian views making headlines, many were stunned by how fervently and publicly the adventurer prayed as he walked across the 2-inch line (read TheBlaze's analysis of his long-winded invocation). Following his conquest, we spoke with Michael Mascitto, a family friend (his cousin is related to Wallenda) to learn more about the performer who captivated media attention, leaving Americans' very literally on the edges of their seats.
Nik Wallenda speaks at a press conference after he crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge on a tiderope near the Grand Canyon on June 23, 2013. The two-inch (five-centimeter) thick wireline starting from a Navajo reservation just outside of the Grand Canyon National Park is suspended 1,500 feet (450 meters) above the ground (about 50 feet higher than the Empire State Building) and is 1,400 feet long (about the length of five football fields). US daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first man to cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope Sunday, completing his latest record-breaking feat in just under 23 minutes. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Like millions of viewers who observed the spectacle live, Mascitto said he was thinking "don't fall" as he anxiously watched his television set. Despite his confidence that Wallenda would be able to handle the challenge, the walk, Mascitto said, was a tough one.
“I was nervous. I’ve seen many wire walks. My mom used to walk a low wire and she was a circus performer," he said. "I could tell from the first few steps that this was going to be a tough walk. The cable seemed to be moving more than what was expected.”
Considering the intense focus that was placed upon Wallenda's faith, Mascitto offered up some interesting tidbits. There was a time before all the hoopla surrounding his 2012 walk across Niagara Falls and his latest feat that the performer apparently struggled with whether or not he should continue pursuing tightrope walking.
Like many others, though, who must balance personal and professional ambitions, Wallenda was faced with a tough choice: Settle down or make the circus life work. In the end, he decided on the latter, leading him on a fascinating path that has brought with it a plethora of media attention.
“When he started doing some of these bigger stunts, he realized that he was developing a platform, or rather God was giving him a platform, to use his abilities for God’s glory," Mascitto said. "And I think he’s taken that seriously.”
The exhibition of faith, though, was nothing new for Wallenda, who Mascitto says grew up in a Christian environment. As for those who have questioned the dangers associated with his career choice -- and how the performer uses prayer to get through the difficult times -- they may be surprised.
Nik Wallenda walks without any harnesses or any safety precautions on a tightrope stretched across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon on June 23, 2013. The two-inch (five-centimeter) thick wireline starting from a Navajo reservation just outside of the Grand Canyon National Park is suspended 1,500 feet (450 meters) above the ground (about 50 feet higher than the Empire State Building) and is 1,400 feet long (about the length of five football fields). US daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first man to cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope Sunday, completing his latest record-breaking feat in just under 23 minutes. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
"I think his faith has solidified and grown stronger through these years and these stunts he has been doing," Mascitto said. "He truly believes it’s because God has given him this platform for a reason -- to glorify Him...Him with a capital H.”
As for Wallenda's personality, he is described as "hilarious" and always cracking jokes. His light-hearted nature, though, comes with some very serious ideals. "Never give up" is his mantra -- one he advances through interviews, speeches and other public outreaches.
After all, Wallenda's own journey has been one of perseverance. He has fought long and hard to carry out his stunts. From changing laws to getting the necessary funding to make his goals a reality, his battle hasn't been easy. But, as Mascitto notes, Wallenda has forged on.
“I imagine that all those who have done something significant in this world have the unique ability to view those roadblocks as mere stepping stones to accomplish their goals," Mascitto said of his friend.
TheBlaze previously noted the debate surrounding Wallenda's faith. Some critiqued the performer for being too fervent, while others wondered if he should be using prayer as a crutch, while he's willingly engaging in dangerous behavior. Mascitto defended his friend.
“I’d say, if you’re walking the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, you’ve sort of earned your right to share your faith on national TV," he said, noting that his penchant for the wire matches his love for the faith. "Nik is more-so a Christian than he is a wire-walker.”
Wallenda, Mascitto argues, is inspiring people to share their faith at work, at school and in other areas of their lives.
“I think he gives hope to people," he added.