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By Noah Lee | March 13, 2012

The skateboarding world has a few standout stars that are recognizable. The biggest of course is Tony Hawk, a major success in not only his sport itself but also the sports and video game world in general. A few other notable names are Stacy Peralta for his work on the film and documentary “Dogtown and Z Boys” and perhaps Christian Hosoi, a skater who largely made a name for himself in the 80s for his wild antics. “Waiting for Lightning,” the first feature from director Jacob Rosenberg focuses on one skater, who over the past 25 years has pushed skateboarding to new heights, made him a star among his peers and accomplished changing the extreme sports world. That man is Danny Way, most recognized for being the insane human who decided it was a good idea to jump the Great Wall of China on a piece of wood with 4 wheels attached to it and one of three people whose name is engraved on that very structure.

Way had approached his friend Rosenberg, a skater himself who has worked in film making for years, to see if he wanted to produce this movie, and, as many people in the documentary say, “you don’t say ‘No’ to Danny.” Centrally covering Way’s epic journey to his leap across the Wall, Rosenberg also explores how he got there and the influence he has had upon his sport and his relationships with his family and, one of his biggest influences, fellow skater Mike Ternasky.

“Waiting for Lightning” features dozens of terrific interviews from his peers in the extreme sports world (a sort of all encompassing name for skateboarding, surfing, BMX, motocross and rally racing), including the previously mentioned Hawk and Hosoi, but also legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, Paul Rodriguez Jr., Ken Block, Rob Dyrdek, Mat Hoffman, Travis Pastrana, Rodney Mullen, Matt Hensley and many more. It’s a skateboarding fans dream lineup of talking heads who expound genuine respect for a man who has brought an almost always maligned sport to bigger heights. And that can be taken literally, as this is a guy who has jumped from a helicopter into a skateboarding ramp on his board and then invented the newest, next generation of crazy, seen the past 4 8 years at the X-Games, the MegaRamp: a two part skateboard ramp that features a 40′-200′ 60′-70′ drop-in to a jump over a 50′-75′ 50′-70′ gap and ends with a 18′ 27′ quarter pipe, which gives the skaters the ability to do tricks four stories in the air. As stated in the film, it took skateboarding to stunt man level. This MegaRamp is also the monster that allowed Way to do something only one person on this planet has ever done, jump over one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Intertwined in his journey to his accomplishment in China, we learn about Danny’s less than ideal childhood, and also how his father and step-father both encouraged him and his brother Damon to not fear being hurt when playing as children. His dad created his first skateboard when he was 3 and it really set him on the path to where he is today. “Waiting for Lightning” covers his rise through the ranks of the skateboard world, his pro turn at age 13 and his capturing of record after record, making him a name in the sport he loves so dearly.

Rosenberg has succeeded in putting together a compelling story of a man, who through many defeats, has always risen to success. Told through the aforementioned interviews and also via a massive collection of footage from Way’s childhood, he weaves an inspiring tale that captures the heartbreak he has had to repeatedly deal with in his personal life; a close call with a career ending injury and many unfortunate deaths that have ultimately paved the way for who Danny is today. It’s a story that has appeal beyond the fans of the genre, but one that is also quite eye opening for those same people to see just how difficult the skateboarding world can be and how much these athletes have accomplished. It’s a human tale and one you can tell is very personal to Jacob Rosenberg. Simply put, in skateboarding slang, this is one gnarly film.

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  1. Darryl Franklin says:

    @TonyB. At the time (July ’05) Danny’s name was carved into the Wall we were told by the officials who run that site (Culture Ministry) (Ju Yu Jong Gate) that his was the 3rd non-Chinese person to have his name carved in the wall (I don’t know if they meant “at that spot on the Wall” which is one of the most important as it was the site of a historic battle that paved the way for the uniting of China). Apparently the first two non-Chinese people had been instrumental in Wall restoration. we were told at the time Danny’s name was carved next to that of China’s first astronaut. Whatever the number of signatures on the wall it was and is considered by Danny a great honor bestowed on him by the Chinese govt at one of their most significant cultural sites. No idea about names in gold or not. I think the color has more to do with being visible when they are carved 10 feet up from the ground?

    How do I know? …I am one of Danny’s managers and was there for the whole thing.

    Anyway Hope you enjoyed the film and thanks for the review @NoahLee

  2. Tony B says:

    I just watched Waiting for Lightning a couple of days ago and wanted to clear up something in your article. There are actually a LOT of names on the Great Wall of China, not just 3. But they are in different colors and there are ONLY 3 names in GOLD, of which Danny Way is one of them.

    Just trying to help-

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