Danny Way and the Gift of Fear
Credit: Photograph by Hugh Kretschmer
Where This Has All Been Leading
I've left a lot out of this article. I haven't mentioned how Danny has twice jumped from a hovering helicopter into a halfpipe, or how one of those times, the first time, he did it with a dislocated shoulder. I've not mentioned his four ACL reconstructions, two of which were done while he was awake. Not the fact that he holds the land speed record on a skateboard. I left all of this, and tons more, out because finally it's irrelevant, which is the definitive difference between Danny Way and, well, you. And me. And most everyone else on the planet. When you add up all of Danny's accomplishments and trespasses, his loves and losses and the times when he's been lost, there's still something missing. And what's missing – it's not fear, but maybe fearfulness – is what the rest of us have an awful lot of. We cling to our fearfulness as tightly as we do our triumphs and traumas; we envision these things as the perimeters of our identities, the irrefutable evidence of our capabilities, and Danny simply, emphatically, doesn't.

Think Picasso, Hemingway, Dvorak. Think Laird Hamilton, Chuck Yeager. And, yes, think Tyson. Consider the likelihood that these men don't possess qualities the rest of us lack, but instead have within them intense voids, empty and expansive chambers of possibility. Maybe these voids – which the men fill with what can only be called art – are innate, or maybe they're the result of damage or sacrifice or failures the artists have endured. The origin doesn't matter. Nor does the medium. True, this is a story of how much abuse the body can transcend, but it's also the story of pushing not merely the limits of skateboarding but the boundaries of the human spirit, the soul. What's most inspiring – and intimidating – about Danny has little to do with his greatness or resilience or the sheer ballsiness of his life; rather, it has everything to do with his ambivalence toward those things. While the rest of us stand in awe, rooted in the past and arrested by timidity, he climbs back to the top of the ramp. He adjusts his pads, hangs his wheels over the edge, and drops in. He throws his weight forward, leaning into gravity again and again, trying to gather the speed he needs.