By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – Suspended five stories high, 37-year-old Ashley McCauley and 33-year-old Jordan Wolf on June 4 took their turns stepping out of a metal safety cage hanging from the end of a crane, and onto a pair of stilts standing 54 feet, one inch tall.
Then, with nothing more than loose tethers running from a belt around their wastes to safety cables on either side of them, the siblings from Loyal, each took 10 unsupported steps forward on aluminum stilts each weighing 97 pounds, unofficially setting a new stilt-walking world record.
“A lot of emotions,” Jordan told Hub City Times as he exited the cage once it was safely back on solid ground. “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life after watching my brother do it and knowing my dad did it, so it feels pretty good.”
His dad, known locally as “Steady” Eddie Wolf, held the world record four different times at varying heights throughout most of the 1980s, ending up at 40 feet, 9.5 inches in 1988.
A decade later, his brother Travis set the world record at 40 feet, 10.25 inches.
The current official record, 53 feet, 10 inches, was set in 2006 in China. Now, the Wolf family waits, as the Guiness Book of World Records works to verify Jordan’s record-setting effort.
“I’ve been through this quite a few times,” said Jordan’s mother Annmarie following the attempt by her son. “Jordan really wanted this, so we’re pretty happy for him.”
And while Jordan’s record-setting attempt hangs in the balance, Ashley’s effort will not be considered by Guiness, since her application was denied. But she did not let that stop her or dampen her spirits.
“It was amazing,” Ashley said in the immediate afterglow of the event, held in front of the grandstands at the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Marshfield. “Never had a woman attempt it, and that’s been my big thing. I really wanted to do this for all the little girls that I have in my family, just to prove that girls can keep up with the boys, and we can do everything that they can do. But it was surreal for sure, being up there with two of my brothers, and one that’s already done it before (Travis) having our backs. And then practicing with my brother Jordan for six months, and then doing it with him, it was awesome.
“A lot of emotions once we were up there, just thinking about the history of everything, and how much practice we’ve put into it. For me, it was a lot of emotion of the community support. Honestly, it’s taken so much to get us to this point, and we’ve had so much family that’s helped us with everything. But for Marawood and Nikolai (Construction) to come out here on a Saturday and do this for us was pretty awesome.”
And while the effort took an emotional toll on both Ashley and Jordan, they agreed the physical aspect was just as difficult.
“It took a lot of practice, a lot of work,” Ashley said. “We started back in October, really focusing on leg training, and we thought we knew what we would have to do to lift a hundred pounds, and it was the complete opposite to be honest. But we practiced on them three times a week, and as we practiced, it just got easier and easier. So, for me it wasn’t the height, it was the weight. Physically, I’m a pretty small gal, and so the stilts weighed a lot more than I did, so to be able to move them is definitely mind over matter.”
Jordan agreed with his sister’s assessment. “We’ve actually never tried these stilts before today. So, we got up there, and I had to learn how they maneuver and the body motion that goes with them.”
Down below, their father “Steady” Eddie kept a steady eye on things as he observed from ground level.
“It’s very stressful,” he said after watching two of his children set a record nearly 14 feet higher than his last record-setting height. “Thank God that we got it done before it got too windy, because that’s our biggest fear is the wind. And I thought this was kind of put to the side at some point, but these two just come out of nowhere and said they’re going to break the record, and here we are. I can’t believe it. Pretty good feeling. It’s just awesome. Awesome Ashley and Jumpin’ Jordan.”
The pair’s motto from the beginning was “Balance over Fear”, and they used their record-setting campaign to “Walk for a Purpose”, raising money for local families going through challenges caused by cancer.
In a social media post the day after their record-setting performance, Ashley McCauley said, “It still feels a bit surreal, but we accomplished what we set out to do. This may be an individual record by Guiness, but to our family it’s a team accomplishment. We appreciate all who traveled near and far to witness and celebrate with us.”
A few traveled a lot farther than most; there were several individuals representing the International Network of Stilt Walkers broadcasting the event in multiple Latin American countries.