Nik Wallenda walks fine line high, high above river gorge

CAMERON, Arizona (CNN) -- His high-wire walk didn't start well.

Perched on a 2-inch-thick metal cable, 1,500 feet in the air, daredevil Nik Wallenda spat on his hands and wiped the soles of his moccasins.

"These shoes feel slippery. There's dust on this cable," the lifelong tightrope walker said Sunday as he was just beginning his quarter-mile trek across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon without the aid of a safety tether.

But an agonizing and an anxiety-filled 22 minutes and 54 seconds later, Wallenda had crossed to the other side, running the final steps to become the first person to traverse the gorge near Grand Canyon Park in Arizona.

The wind was worse than he anticipated, he said at one point. And twice he stopped, knelt and regained his composure.

"I was fatigued until I was three-quarters of the way across, and then it was all adrenaline," he said.

The feat was watched by a worldwide audience, according to the Discovery Channel, which televised the event in the United States.

At the end, the seventh-generation aerialist threw down his balancing pole, kissed the ground and hugged his wife and three children.

"I can finally breathe again," Erendira Wallenda said.

When asked how he planned to celebrate his successful walk, Wallenda mentioned eating a rib-eye steak.

He is a member of the famous Flying Wallendas, founded by his grandfather Karl in the 1920s. But the family's circus roots go back further than that, Nik said.

"My family has done this for seven generations and 200 years, and I'm carrying on a legacy. This is something I've done since I was 2 years old, and it truly is my passion."