Danny Way and the Gift of Fear
Credit: Photograph by Hugh Kretschmer
A Brief Interlude About Fear
Although I'd been hiding the fact that I still skated, I'd long entertained delusions of skating the Mega. But once I was there, I saw the sheer absurdity of my thinking. It wasn't the scale of the ramp that intimidated me. It was Danny. Failing to land even the most basic aerial would've been an insult, like he'd offered me a gift and I chucked it into the trash, bow and all, right in front of him. I was afraid to let him down.

And yet he's a man who strives to put you at ease. In his car he asks if you're getting enough air, if you like the radio station. In restaurants he asks about your food allergies – he has many – and then suggests dishes. He gives extremely thorough driving directions, spells out the street names and then repeats the spellings, and you get the sense that he'd take your getting lost personally. Which is how I felt on the Mega – afraid not of embarrassing myself so much, but of embarrassing Danny.

All of which got me thinking about fear, so after his next attempt – where he barely made the full flip and kind of landed on his spine and all of the cameramen nervously looked to each other – I asked if the Mega in any way scared him.

"I was more scared talking to those students this morning," he said.

He did look uncomfortable giving his speech, like an awkward groomsman making a toast.

"It's weird," he said. "Onstage I can't get hurt, but here, where I could get maimed or killed, I feel totally relaxed. I have a lot of things in my memory that I can dig into and unlock to propel my motivation. Skateboarding is my tool for processing emotion and energy. I try to use it that way. It's easier said than done."

Then he dropped in again, slammed again, and just lay at the bottom of the ramp for a long, long time.