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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Like anyone taking a walk on the beach, Nik Wallenda on Thursday found sand in places he didn’t want it, namely on the 1,300-foot-long tightrope he traversed 100 feet above the beach.
“It felt really slippery,” he said, so slippery that he considered doing the wire-walk barefoot.
But ultimately, Wallenda decided to keep on the buckskin and suede shoes that his mother had made him, and he completed the walk without any difficulties.
For Wallenda, 33, a member of the seventh generation of the famous daredevil family that has been putting on shows for two centuries, it was another in a long line of death-defying feats.
In June, he walked farther – and higher up – over Niagara Falls.
That time he was tethered. This time, however, he was unharnessed as seagulls flew by, a couple of banner-pulling planes zipped around, and boats came to shore so their occupants could watch Wallenda, along with the crowd on the beach. Local officials estimated that 150,000 people saw him make the half-hour walk, step by careful step, in person.
There was expected to be a boon for Atlantic City and the Tropicana Casino & Resort, which put on the event.
The crowd got a preview of the Wallenda Family Experience show opening at the casino on Sunday, and the city got a spectacle of the sort it wants as it continues to deal with declining gambling revenue caused largely by the opening of casinos in nearby states.
Noreen Saggese, a teacher from Washington Township, N.J., was staying at the Tropicana with her cousin to celebrate her 59th birthday.
“There’s no net and there’s no harness,” Saggese said as she prepared to watch the walk. “It’s thrilling.”
After the walk, Wallenda had a rehearsal for his family’s show.
But first, he made time for a news conference.
That helicopter buzzing overheard? Not an annoyance at all, he said.
The wind gusts, a couple of which he figured hit 20 mph or so? No big deal.
Where this walk ranks among his greatest hits? “I’ll always remember this walk because of the crowd that turned up, that beautiful boardwalk and the sand.”
His faith in the 90 or so helpers, most of them Tropicana employees weighing down support ropes to keep his high wire tight? Unwavering.
The same, however, couldn’t be said for their faith in him.
After he gave them instructions on their task, he asked if there were any questions.
One man shouted: “Are you nuts?”
Wallenda didn’t answer.