by Brigitte Dusseau
Niagara Falls, New York, June 15, 2012 (AFP) - Famed tightrope walker Nik Wallenda completed Friday the first walk across Niagara Falls in more than a century, braving winds and heavy spray in his historic feat.
Tens of thousands of spectators were packed on the US and Canadian sides of the falls to watch Wallenda, 33, complete the hair raising stunt.
Wallenda's walk on a cable suspended 196 feet (60 meters) up over a never-before-traversed rim of the biggest waterfall in North America took 25 minutes, considerably less than the expected 35 to 40 minutes. He jumped down from the high wire on the Canadian side at 10:40 pm (0220 GMT).
The event was televised by the US network ABC with a five second delay.
With the aid of a long balancing pole, Wallenda, wet from heavy mist kicked up from the Falls, carefully found his footing along the lengthy cable.
The acrobat had a two-way radio and and a small earpiece, and was able to communicate with his father, identified by ABC as Terry Troffer.
"My God, it's incredible, it's breathtaking, I feel really well," Wallenda said soon after starting his quest.
He later reported being "very wet."
"This is so physical, not only mental but physical," Wallenda said.
"Fighting the wind isn't easy. I feel my hands are going numb."
Wallenda's father gave him words of encouragement throughout the walk.
"You're doing good. Take your time," said Troffer, whom ABC described as the event safety coordinator.
The crowd went wild when Wallenda reached the Canadian side of the Falls.
Still on the high wire, Wallenda kneeled briefly on the cable and waved to the roaring crowd.
Throughout the event Wallenda was attached to a harness that would have allowed him to climb back onto the high wire if he slipped and fell. However, had he lost his balancing pole, he would have had to be rescued.
Soon after arriving in Canada, Wallenda called his grandmother on a mobile phone.
"Hey Oma, I love you," he said. He said he had promised to call her up as soon as he completed the feat because she couldn't be there.
An ABC reporter asked the acrobat what was most surprising about the experience. "It was definitely those winds out there," he said.
Wallenda told ABC that for his next high-wire act, he plans to cross the Grand Canyon.
The acrobat's achievement adds to the lore and legend of the renowned Wallenda family, famous for astonishing audiences around the world with their jaw-dropping stunts executed from dizzying heights.
Their fame really took off in 1978, when they were made the subject of popular made-for-TV movie, "The Great Wallendas."
Any attempt to cross the falls is usually strictly forbidden, but an exception was made for Wallenda, who comes from a long line of acrobats and circus performers.
Fourteen daredevils attempted the stunt and occasionally succeeded in the 19th century before further attempts were banned. However, they were in a much calmer section of the biggest waterfall in North America.
Throughout the walk Wallenda's children, aged 9, 11 and 14, were watching.