An Inteview With Danny Way
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Danny Way grew up surfing and skateboarding in Cardiff, in north San Diego County. He began skateboarding the Del Mar Skate Park in 1979 at 5 – when the beginning age was 6 – but his step-dad Tim O’Dea snuck him in: “I was just simply attracted to the principal of launching airs on skateboards out of pools,” Way said to Dave Duncan in a Juice Magazine interview.
Twenty-six years later, Danny Way held the world record for launching airs on a mega-ramp: 79 feet in distance. 23.5 feet in height. And then on July 9th, 2005, Way succeeded where tens of thousands of nomadic invaders – and one fatal BMX rider – had failed when he jumped the Great Wall of China on a skateboard.
The Great Wall of China setup, enough to make even Genghis Khan tap his sword to his visor in salute: “The 65-foot-high ramp will propel Way at around 55 miles an hour and launch him over the more than 70-foot width of the wall. Once clear, he will land on a 100-foot-long ramp before soaring again off a 30-foot-tall quarterpipe.”
When you understand the childhood emotional traumas Way endured, with all the physical injuries and recoveries on top of that, it’s amazing that he can stand, and hold his arms out like that. He is called, by some, The Terminator, because of the way he can slam on a ramp, shatter in a million pieces, pick himself up, dust himself off, wink at the camera and get ‘er done.
He has broken his neck, shattered his knee several times. He even shattered his ankle while practicing the Great Wall of China jump, but couldn’t bear to see all that effort and expense go to waste, so he taped it up, shook it off and pulled it.
And if you want to be truly impressed with how tough this guy is, go online and find the highlights of X Games XIV. Unbelievable.
HE SHALL OVERCOME
A Timeline of Danny Way’s Good Times and Bad Times
Compiled from Wikipedia, In Harm’s Way by Tim Struby, Danny Way and the Gift of Fear by Bret Anthony Johnston in Men’s Journal, Stepping Aside as His Creation Soars by Matt Higgins in the New York Times, a Dave Duncan interview in Juice Magazine, the planbskateboards.com website and other sources. (Fact checked by D Way)
1974: Born on Tax Day, April 15. His father died when Danny was eight months old and he was raised by his mother, Mary.
1983: Overshot a friend’s backyard ramp and shattered his wrist – his first skate injury.
1986: Won the first contest he entered, at 11 years old.
1988: First video appearance in Powell-Peralta’s Public Domain: Bones Brigade Video 4.
1988: Leaves Powell-Peralta and joins H Street, appearing in Shackle Me Not and Hokus Pokus.
1988: Turned pro at 14.
1989: Won his first vert contest in Michigan.
1989: According to Tim Struby in In Harm’s Way: “At 15 he shattered his left elbow; he still can’t straighten his arm.”
1989: From Men’s Journal: “In 1989, when he was on the verge of being expelled from 10th grade for truancy and his home life was increasingly unstable, Way quit school altogether to skate full time. Powell Peralta, however, wasn’t ready to offer him a professional contract, so when he was approached about riding for H-Street, a new and edgy skater-owned company, Danny accepted… With Ternasky’s guidance, Danny won his first pro contest, beating veterans and newcomers alike, and he began collecting monthly royalty checks in the neighborhood of $20K. He was 15.”
1990: Came very close to landing the first 900. See: the video Risk It.
1991: Follows Mike Ternasky to a new skate company, Plan B.
1991: Thrasher Magazine Skater of the Year.
1993: Cover of TransWorld Skateboarding.
1994: From Men’s Journal: “In 1994, on his way to the Plan B offices, Ternasky was T-boned at an intersection and died of head trauma. He was 27, and with the exception of Ternasky’s wife, Danny was the last person to see him alive. The loss gutted him (the initials MT are tattooed under Danny’s left arm, a tribute to his mentor).”
1994: DC Shoes founded by Danny’s brother Damon, and Ken Block.
1995: Broke his neck surfing a small day, at the age of 16. Dove under a wave, crushed his neck to his chest on a sandbar and made it to the beach where he removed knocked out teeth. A week later, his body shut down: “Way… could not move from the waist up for more than a year because of swelling and bruising on his brain stem and spinal cord,” Matt Higgins wrote in The New York Times. “’I was a wreck,’ Way said. ‘I never thought I would be able to do what I’m doing now. Skateboarding came back quickly. But learning to get over the fear of falling and taking a slam with my body – there’s a fear installed inside me now that’s really cautious of movement in my neck and back.’”
1995: DC Shoes has three brands, which gross $7 million.
1997: Dropped from a helicopter into a half pipe. Nailed the landing but fell and mangled his left shoulder, according to Tim Struby in In Harm’s Way. Makes the cover of TransWorld Skateboarding doing just that.
1997: Also makes the cover of Thrasher pulling a Bart Simpson across the roof of an official DC Shoes beater.
1997: On a vert pipe with an eight-foot extension, Way flies to 16’ 5” and breaks the height record by five feet.
1999: Did the helicopter drop again.
1999 – 2002: Seven surgeries. Five for his knees and two for his shoulder.
2002: Makes cover of TransWorld Skateboarding and featured in a Danny Way Pro Spotlight.
2002: Built the first Mega Ramp: a 65-foot 60? drop-in to a 75-foot gap and a 27-foot quarterpipe. Set records for the Longest Distance Jump = 65 feet and Biggest Air = 18’ 3”. “I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt,” he said to Tim Struby. “I just didn’t want to be out for a month. I landed on the edge of the lip. I got lucky. I didn’t get hurt at all.”
2002: In the first Op King of Skate, Way flies 65 feet across a gap to set the distance record, and then goes to 18’ 3” to set the height record.
2002: After eight years of business, DC Shoes has sales of $250 million, employs 150 people and is sold in 52 countries.
2003: Built a bigger Mega Ramp which he used to set the distance record of 75 feet and height record of 23.5 feet. This was mostly done in secrecy, then unveiled to the world in the DC video, The DC Video.
2003: Makes cover of TransWorld getting huge air in the quarterpipe of the Mega Ramp.
2003 – 2004: Won TransWorld Skateboarding’s Best Vert Skater.
2004: The X Games unleashes the Big Air competition, with Way winning a Gold Model with a jump of 79 feet.
2004: Thrasher Magazine Skater of the Year.
2004: Mega Ramp section of The DC Video wins Best Video Part at the 2004 TransWorld Skateboarding Awards.
2004: Quicksilver buys DC Shoes for $84 million.
2005: Jumped the Ju Yu Gong Gate on the Great Wall of China.
2005: Three weeks after jumping the Great Wall, still limping on a fractured ankle, Way won the Big Air Gold Medal at X Games XI.
2005: From Men’s Journal: “Danny’s high-profile stunts eventually gave him enough cachet and cash to resurrect Plan B Skateboards in 2005. He called back most of the original team members and scooped up prodigies like Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez and Ryan Sheckler.”
2006: Won Big Air Gold Medal at X Games XII
2006: Landed the first backflip and backflip Rocket Air on a Mexico City Megaramp.
2006: Breaks the world record for Biggest Drop Onto a Ramp when he jumps 82’ 3” into a quarter pipe at the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas.
2008: A month before X Games XIV, “he crashed on a botched warm-up air,” Bret Anthony Johnston wrote in Men’s Journal. “knocked himself unconscious, and had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.”
2008: Competing in the Big Air competition for X Games XIV, Danny Way slammed hard a couple of times in practice, then slams hard on his second run. Hard? He loses it just above the coping after getting air, does a flip, lands hard on his back then ragdolls to the bottom of the ramp. “Game over, man! Game over!” But no, he limps off under his own power, brushes it off, ignores the medics, takes his fourth and fifth runs and finishes second to Bob Burnquist. This is considered one of the 10 Greatest Moments in X Games History and you have to see it to believe it. He is The Terminator.
2008: In September of 2008, “at a MegaRamp contest in Brazil, he came up short on a jump and fractured two vertebrae,” according the Men’s Journal article. “taking himself out of the competition.”
2008: TransWorld Skateboarding runs a photo of Danny Way halfway across the gap on the Megaramp, with the blurb: WHAT IS VERT? Danny and Bob Defy and Define the Lost Art.
2009: Attempted a land speed record towed by a car on an airstrip in the Mojave desert. He ate it at 70 MPH, brushed it off and set a world record of 74.5 MPH: “My goal is 100 MPH,” Way said in a TV show on the feat.
2009: At X Games XV in Los Angeles, won the first Big Air Rail Jam – on a sprained ankle.
2009: The Skateboard Mag publishes a Danny Way Timeline to detail his influence on skateboarding going back to 1989. Plan B also puts up a special DW20 website to do the same.
2010: Now 36 years old, Way has two sons, Ryden and Tavin, and many plans – public and secret – for an environmentally-correct skate facility in Kauai, bigger ramps, bigger moves.
Written by Ben Marcus
From ‘The Skateboard: The Good, The Bad And The Gnarly