After he broke his neck – which he describes as "my face pretty much hitting me in my stomach" – Danny was partially paralyzed for more than a year. He went in and out of the hospital, bouncing from one doctor to another, and made no progress. He was afraid to lift a carton of milk, convinced that even minimal exertion would cause more damage. He suffered severe depression and spent most days lying on his floor to ease the pain. He was an invalid at 20. Imagine going from jumping off huge cliffs to being scared of something in your fridge. "It's like being in jail," he says. "You lose all your freedom."
Doctors said he'd never skate again. Danny refused to listen. He read everything he could about spinal injuries and experimented with different treatments. Each failure fueled his obsession. Finally he flew to Hawaii and lived with a spiritual healer who guided him out of his "superdepressed" state not with pharmaceuticals, but with meditation and a holistic focus on mind-body synergy. He made slow progress over the course of a few months, exacting the same determination on his recovery that he long had on his skating. When Danny returned to California, he endured months of brutal physical and psychological therapy. Nearly every day, he thought about giving up, but what kept him going was a vision of a ramp so unprecedented, massive, and jaw-droppingly gnarly that it would forever change the face of skateboarding.
As Danny returned to skating – he won a major contest in 1996, shocking the industry that had written him off as a lost soldier – he began experimenting with the size and design of ramps, testing both the physical limitations and the possibilities he'd dreamed up during his long recuperation. "There were no engineers or mathematicians involved," he says. "It was all human trial and error." Which means that until he hit upon a design that worked, he'd try out the biggest ramp in history, destroy himself, then build a bigger one. Between 1999 and 2002, he underwent seven major surgeries. Then, in 2002, the prototype of what's now called the MegaRamp was erected in the desert. Before the weather eroded it, Danny invited other pros to ride the ramp, but only a select few had the requisite skills – and balls.
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. This March, Plan B partnered with Billabong to increase its market value and visibility. "The partnership will allow Plan B to go bigger and stay true to its core," Danny says. "We aren't going to make girls' clothing. We're going to make the best boards and wheels. We're going to be the modern-day Powell without selling ourselves short." In other words, he's doing exactly what Mike Ternasky had hoped he would. And it was probably because Ternasky would have wanted him to that Danny went to China and built a MegaRamp beside the Great Wall. For Danny, though, it was the means, not the end. He wants to make sure he's given the sport everything he can, everything it will need to flourish in his wake. His concern isn't his legacy, but the future of skateboarding.
As Danny was showing me clips of the new Plan B skate video on his iPhone, he said, "With the window of time left in my career, I'm not interested in proving I'm better than somebody else. I want to push skateboarding into another paradigm."
The new video is called Superfuture.