Since its inception, skateboarding has always been the sport of choice for rebellious kids for one reason above all others: There are no rules. While sports like baseball and football have rigid structures that have barely changed over the years, skateboarding is constantly evolving into something different. The only thing that limits where skateboarding can go is the creativity of the people involved. Perhaps the most vivid imagination of all belongs to skateboarding legend Danny Way.
Since Way first became a pro at the ripe old age of 14, he’s looked for ways to make tricks bigger, to go faster, and to jump higher. It is this dedication to innovation that led Way to come up with some of his craziest ideas. Possibly the craziest idea was to become the first person to jump the Great Wall of China on a skateboard, a trick that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the Mega Ramp that Way invented. After building the enormous structure, Way felt that it needed to be showcased in a way that fully illustrated its size. “It’s great that I’ve figured out this massive ramp, but building it out in the desert gives it no perception. Surrounded by weeds and dirt it’s hard to tell how huge it is. So if I unveil it elsewhere we need to do it where people think, Wow, that’s massive,” Way explains. “When I was in China we flew over the Great Wall of China and I thought it would be a pretty awesome thing to jump.”
The jump over the Great Wall is one of many things that are covered in Waiting for Lightning, a documentary about Way and his journey from a troubled youth to the skateboarding legend that he is today. In order to document the new tricks that they are doing, skateboarders tend to film themselves all of the time, a practice that certainly comes in handy for making a documentary. The film was made by Jake Rosenberg, a childhood friend of Way’s. As they grew up, both were mentored by Mike Ternasky, with Rosenberg serving as videographer for Way and other skaters. “Our friend and mentor Mike Ternasky was killed in a car accident in 1995, so the film was a way to pay homage to the man who inspired us to do what we are doing today,” Way notes.
After watching Waiting for Lightning in theaters this month, one may become tempted to try some of the sick feats Way performs in the film. One should do so with extreme caution. After 23 years of skating professionally, Way’s body is not exactly in one piece. “I think that I’ve had 16 orthopedic surgeries. It has not been a real smooth ride for me physically,” Way recalls. “I’ve had a lot of situations in my skateboarding and personal life where I’ve been really hurt, but I have been able to pick myself up and prevail.”
Way pays homage to the danger of his profession in the ink that he sports. Many of his tattoos are related to Roman history and the gladiatorial games. “What we do is like modern-day gladiator shit. Now we’re not looking to die at the end of the battle, but we have to look at it with the mentality that I’m ready to take whatever comes my way,” he says. When it comes to getting tattoos Way trusts Art and Steve Godoy only. Way grew up skating with the two brothers and believes that they embody the close connections between the worlds of skating and tattooing.
Many people would simply toss their skateboard aside and choose a safer way to make a living after a surgery or two. Yet after 16 of them, Way still gets on the board every day trying to do things that no one has done before. “It’s passion, pure passion. Doing what we do, there comes a point of reservation where you think, Is this worth it?” Way says. “If you love something that much, you’ll do anything to have it.”