Danny Way may have made a name for himself with big stunts on a skateboard but he insists he's no daredevil.
“I love Evel Knievel. I think he’s one of the greatest American heroes of all time but I don’t think I’m like him. I ride skateboards: he rode motorcycles. He spent his life jumping from point A to point B: I skateboard for a living and have jumped from point A to point B a couple of times as an extra-curricular challenge,” says a jet-lagged Danny Way in a penthouse bar in London’s Leicester Square. “It’s not to be a daredevil or stuntman, but just to give skateboarding a bigger platform of exposure and push the boundaries and see where they lie in our sport.”
Whether he likes it or not, this thirty-eight-year-old from Vista, California has cemented himself in skateboarding’s history books as a man who likes to do big stunts. Let’s face it, dropping in to a giant halfpipe from a helicopter or jumping over the Great Wall of China on a skateboard will stick around a lot longer in people’s memories than being Thrasher magazine 1991 Skater Of The Year or being the guy who reanimated Plan B Skateboards.
But his latest venture, Waiting for Lightning – a documentary of his life that takes stock of his achievements and explores what led Danny to forge such a career path – looks set to add some detail to the Danny Way story.
“[Telling my story] wasn’t a huge priority for me but felt like it was a good time to do it,” says Danny at this the start of a European premiere tour. “The opportunity presented itself more or less and I took advantage of it. I thought there was enough content in my story to entertain an audience.”
Alongside director and long-time friend Jacob Rosenberg and writerBret Johnston, they pieced together the story of a young boy finding an emotional release in skateboarding and pushing himself to new limits for his own personal fulfilment. Cutting in throughout this narrative is the lead up to his Great Wall of China megaramp jump in 2005. But curiously it’s something, today at least, Danny would rather play down.
“I’m not out there trying to be the guy jumping these things and wanting to be known as that guy,” he says, eager not to have his twenty-five-year career defined by the actions of a few days. “I took advantage of an amazing opportunity I dreamed of. It wasn’t about doing anything more than what felt right at that time. But not to keep jumping things – I don’t even like to use the word ‘jump’ in skateboarding.”
It seems what Danny is most proud of is the fact that at his age, he can still be ‘relevant’ to skateboarding. Something, it seems, he’s achieved thanks to his latest appearance on the cover of Thrasher that sees him flipping a giant eurogap on his new megaramp in Kauai, Hawaii - a feat which appears as the film’s finale.
“My longevity in the community of skateboarding is what I feel most accomplished about, that I still manage to have relevance in one way or another in the skateboard world – on or off the board,” he says. “Plan B is a recognition that at some point, I will be too old to skate [...] I’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing this sport – or lifestyle – since I was a little kid. So I can lend a lot of insight and do a lot of good things for the guys coming up below us, [like] the guys who did stuff for me.”
Despite this, the generation gap still exists in the perceptions of progression. While Danny’s vision for testing the limits of skateboarding is about carefully designed constructions and a general defiance of gravity, the younger generation prefers to push things in a less-controlled environment, choosing increasingly technical games of one-upmanship at renowned street spots. So who does he think is pushing the limits the most?
“I think there’s a lot more people that would flip off El Toro [a giant 20-stair set in Lake Forest, California] than drop in on the megaramp. So you tell me? It depends where your comfort zone is,” says Danny. “If you sent a decent skateboarder out there and said ‘megaramp or El Toro?’, they would lean towards El Toro. You don’t have to go 45 miles an hour to figure than one out. […] I feel comfortable in [the megaramp] environment so it’s hard for me to judge. I don’t like landing on flat ground from big heights either. I think it’s fucking retarded to be honest.”