September 24, 2021
shanghai tourism festival
25 years ago on September 24, 1996, Jay Cochrane opened the annual Shanghai Tourism Festival with a spectacular skywalk 500 feet over the glittering Chinese city.
Jay walked to the top of the Bao'an Tower, a 35-story skyscraper under construction in the city's Pudong district, covering a distance of 600 feet, beginning atop the Tompson Commercial Building.
Once one of the city's biggest slums, the area was blossoming with skyscrapers as far as one could see. In 1990, the district was designated a development zone and immediately began its rebirth. Today, it contains a major port, a venue for world-class sporting events, a financial hub, and a high-tech zone.
October 28, 2020
the great china skywalk
It's been 25 years and it is still emblazoned in my memory.
Jay Cochrane, a dot in the sky, kept moving toward me. Step by step, heel to toe, on a one and a half inch wire over thirteen hundred feet above the Yangtze River. Jay told me, "Just take life one step at a time." Jay's words rang true as he covered the half mile in the sky.
In the three weeks leading up to the skywalk, we spent nearly every day walking. Jay's wire is an upside down suspension bridge, with Jay walking on the inverted roadway. Thousands of miles of guide wires attached to the main cable from hold points on the banks of the river and along the walls of the gorge, just to keep the roadway as stable as possible.
Jay said the wire was alive and he respected it. Every step on the wire gave life to the wire, and no two steps could be exactly the same. His feet seemed to glide, never losing contact, and his body seemed to float. Witnessing the transverse was exhilarating, with a healthy dose of terror, and stunningly beautiful. Jay told me, “The only time I have any peace is on the wire.”
Jay's skywalk was commissioned by the China Sports Federation to bring international attention to Qutang Gorge, the shortest and most majestic of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze. Jay lived in Fengjie, China, for nearly three months. He came to love the people and each night he would greet visitors to his museum of skywalks at our hotel. Kids loved him and Jay made every skywalk a charitable event, finding ways to involve children's charities. Over the years, Jay raised thousands of dollars for Tender Wishes and the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Jay wanted to return to Fengjie for the twenty-fifth anniversary and we discussed it in 2012 while he performed in Niagara Falls. We were all shocked by his death just six months later from cancer. His legacy lives on and he will not be forgotten.
What is a skywalker?
No he is not a member of the Star Wars universe. Jay Cochrane created pathways in the sky that made him seem to levitate between buildings and natural wonders. Jay Cochrane: My Life as a Skywalker features Jay Cochrane telling his own story in words, videos and photographs.
Throughout his 50-year career, he reached for the stars, walking higher and further than anyone else had ever accomplished on a wire. The Great China Skywalk still remains as the greatest highwire engineering feats in history.
Twenty five years ago on October 28, 1995, Jay Cochrane stepped onto a wire and walked half a mile between the two faces of Qutang Gorge, 1,345 feet above China's majestic Yangtze River. The performance was viewed by millions on the mountaintops, cruise ships below, and a live China TV broadcast.
Jay Cochrane went on to other world record performances. In 1996, he completed the longest nighttime skywalk between two office towers in Shanghai. Next came the longest and highest blindfolded skywalk at the Flamingo Hilton in flamboyant Las Vegas, broadcast live on Guinness World Records.
In 2002, Jay brought highwire walking back to Niagara Falls for the first time in a hundred years, walking above Clinton Hill with the falls as his backdrop
The year before his untimely death from cancer in 2013, Jay Cochrane completed the greatest show of his career, skywalking nearly 12-miles over the summer of 2012 above the city of Niagara Falls.
Jay Cochrane created bridges in the sky and raised thousands of dollars for charity. It's time for a lasting memorial to be built.
Niagara Falls was his passion and beginning in May 2022, our website will feature the 20th Anniversary of the DECADE OF SKYWALKS performed by Jay Cochrane.
I had the honor to photograph Jay's performances in Niagara Falls and around the world. They were spectacular.
All images are copyright Mark D Phillips and are available for purchase through this website. Let's make Jay Cochrane's legacy complete with a permanent memorial in Niagara.