Becoming a professional tightrope walker requires a combination of daring, desire for an adrenaline rush, fierce determination and nerves of steel. This isn't a job where you'll just start out at the top. You'll have to practice for years before you're scaling heights that grab the attention of professionals.
Tightrope, or tight-wire, walking is a career that involves training so much that your body begins to instinctively react to changing conditions, such as wind or slack in the rope, and you develop superb balance that keeps you on the wire no matter how conditions change. By starting to train when you're young, you can gain the skills and balance needed to get ahead of the competition and impress entertainment companies when you're looking for a job. Many circus-oriented camps offer summer programs that include training in tightrope walking. Future Stars offers a two-week circus arts camp for people up to age 16. Smirkus Camp offers summer camps for ages 5 to 18. The camp also can send residents to schools across the country to teach circus skills.
Learn from Mentors
Finding a mentor to train with is an important part of learning tightrope walking. Although you could theoretically learn from YouTube videos and the like, nothing beats one-on-one training. If you're too old for a summer camp, look for someone who works as a professional tightrope walker who might let you shadow him. Nik Wallenda, a famous tightrope walker, says his family has done tightrope walking for seven generations, and each generation mentors the new one. The job is dangerous, though, as two people in his family were killed from the walks and one person was paralyzed.
Train for the Worst
When you're training, prepare for the absolute worst. Wallenda says that he trains under very difficult circumstances and if the weather or winds are worse than what he's trained for, he simply won't go out that day. Before tightrope walking in Chicago, he practiced 90 times walking on a wire blindfolded with wind turbines all around him. He also practices for falls and has even trained hanging from a wire for up to 40 minutes.
Looking for Jobs
There's not a lot of information out there about the tightrope walking career or a typical salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't even have a listing for a tightrope walker. However, tightrope walkers either work independently, booking their own shows locally and then working their way up, or they work for an entertainment company such as a circus. Sometimes you can also find tightrope walking jobs listed on online job search sites.