Wallenda flies through the air with the greatest ease

It really was never a question that Nik Wallenda would do anything but walk on wires.

Coming from seven generations of circus performers — his great-grandfather was Karl Wallenda, who introduced the high wire to America in the 1920s with Ringling Bros. — Nik never was trained in any pursuits of a more mundane nature.

He started clowning at 2 (“I’d come out in a pillow case,” he says), but by the time he turned 13, after practicing “for his whole life” and proving himself to his family, he began performing on the high wire.

“I’ve never fallen more than 2 feet,” the 28-year-old daredevil said, speaking from Anaheim in a recent phone interview.

These days, he’s not working on a wire, but on the Wheel of Steel, which he says is like a giant hamster wheel. Wallenda joins the clown Bello running in and out of the huge contraption in the 137th edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which opens in Oakland this week, then travels to San Jose.

His wife Erendira, who has an equally impressive performance background (her father’s family, the Flying Vasquez, stunned audiences in Mexico with their trapeze work) is also in the show, although the pair today isn’t working side by side.

Erendira works high in the air on the sway pole, a 70-foot flexible steel apparatus that moves every time she moves; it’s an act that requires amazing control and strength.

Though they do have a home in Sarasota, Fla., Nik, Erendira and their three children, ages 4, 6 and 9, are on the road 49 weeks out of the year, now in the middle of a two-year, 450-show contract with the circus.

Nik pauses when asked if he misses having a “normal” life. He says “a little bit,” but quickly adds, “I’ve always had an interesting life. I was raised to do it. It’s what I know.” There are times, he admits, that it might be nice if his children could experience some stability.

He’s not necessarily looking forward to seeing his own children perform aerial stunts (right now they play on a low wire), but he hopes they grow up with good morals.

When he gets old, he’ll be happy to retire on the beach with his wife.

In the meantime, he continues to grow as a performer by creating new and different high-in-the-air, broad-scale challenges. (Through the years, he and Erendira have worked on sway poles, the cloud swing, motorcycles in a cage and sky walks as well as the high wire.)

Having learned from the best, and wanting to live up to what his great grandfather would expect of him, he says, “I don’t get scared. I respect what I do. If I do fall, I will die.”

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Where: Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11::30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $15 to $95

Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com

Note: Show moves to HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose with performances at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22-24; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25-26.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, pictured in July at Oracle Park, says team members simultaneously can be “measured and calm” and “looking to push the accelerator.” (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants’ success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

Artist Agnieszka Pilat, pictured with Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Robotics, has a gallery show opening at Modernism. (Courtesy Agnieszka Pilat)
Screenshots of VCs, Kanye and tech parties by the Bay

In this week’s roundup, Ben Horowitz’s surprising hip-hop knowledge and the chic tech crowd at Shack15

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Firefighters extinguish burning material near Lake Tahoe on Sept. 3 in the wake of the Caldor Fire; environmental scientists say the huge fire is bringing to light deficiencies in forest management. <ins>(Max Whittaker/New York Times)</ins>
Cal Fire, timber industry must face an inconvenient truth

We are logging further into the wildfire and climate crisis

Changing zoning in San Francisco neighborhoods where single family homes prevail is crucial in the effort to achieve equity. (Shutterstock)
To make SF livable, single-family zoning must be changed

Let’s move to create affordable housing for working class families

Most Read