The Massive Attack – Danny Way

Sketchy airlines, suspect food, a quickly assembled scaffold, Mega Mega Ramp, and a blown ankle can do nothing to stop Danny Way’s flight over the world’s only manmade, visible-from-space wonder.

Journal Entries by Jason Ellis
Photography by Mike Blabac

Day 1, July 7

After arriving in Vancouver with Robbie Dyrdek on a plush, accommodated Air Canada flight, I find myself amid five-million-I kid you not-five-million Chinese people, vying to get aboard our Air China plane to Beijing. It would be a problem, but I know I’m in business class, so I’m chillin’: “Yeah, seat number four, crackers, deal with me.” Walking down the corridor and onto the plane, the only thing that comes to mind is: “Holy 1985 bad Indian restaurant.” Cigarettes in the ashtrays, purple carpet-this place looks like Bam’s house 30 years from now, when he’s on crack or whatever.

In flight, the little bar cart comes out, and it’s not the proper stainless-steel rolling beverage heaven, but a janky thing with nothing but a curtain hanging off it. I’m not drinking, so I don’t care, but Robbie D is like, “Yeah, I’ll have a vodka.” The lady looks over at Rob like he just asked for a Rolls Royce. She tells him there are only four drinks: red wine, scotch, brandy, and beer. For Rob’s sake, I’m thinking this can’t be good as I end up with an OJ in the world’s smallest cup with no ice.

Trying to embrace the culture (by abstaining from freaking out), I figure, “Hey, let’s play some PSP!” Of course it goes flat as soon as I flip it on. But there must be something to plug it into on here. Maybe they have a cigarette lighter considering when I just went to the bathroom the pilot straight up snaked me into the lavatory and smoked a f-king cigarette. I shit you not. Then he comes out and straight vibes me as he goes back to his pilot seat. Thank you, Air China, you have yet to cease to amaze me.

The events leading up to now, along with our disgusting purple salmon pÉtà‡ (that couldn’t possibly have been salmon pÉtà‡), and our stewardess’ two purple front teeth (feeling like I’m at Bam’s house again), have Rob and me using the word “janky” for the past four hours-not angrily at all, just to embrace the culture of janky Chinese airlines.

Through customs, Rob and I find ourselves greeted by a man with a “Dyrdek” sign. He takes us to a the “Dyrdek” van and gives Rob a “Dyrdek” phone in a plastic bag. Where the f-k is my Dyrdek phone? I’m the one here to warm up with Danny! Dyrdek is only here to get drunk! Then I realize Dyrdek is Dyrdek and Ellis is a shitkicker, so it’s cool.

Once I’m out of the shower back at the hotel, no one talks to me and no one wants to know me. As soon as I step outside, a girl asks if I want a massage and grabs my finger, “Ohhh …” I was going to get one later anyway, but I know she just wants to jam me-plus she looks like a garden gnome and I have a chick, so I’ll pull out the loop on that one. Greg Hunt did inform me of a good massage-90 minutes for 50 American (dollars), no happy ending, my sciatic nerve is feeling semi-fixed, and the ankles don’t feel so bad either. I might just have to jump this damn Wall myself.

Day 2, July 8

Waking at 5:30 a.m. after a mere three hours of sleep (I’m dumb, why am I not sleeping in?), I’m on the StairMaster and lifting weights because I want to be a jock. Somehow I think being a jock will help me on the Mega Ramp. I’m not really sure why I care, ’cause it’s the Danny Way show anyway.

Breakfast at the buffet with Danny’s mums and “ons,” and they’ve both been telling me stories simultaneously for the past hour, which is making my neck hurt since I’m leaning over trying to let them know I’m paying attention.

Leaving, I see Colin McKay, (DC filmer) Sean Rogers, and Blabac and induct myself into the “loop.” But the loop is really the most lamest thing ever. Everyone here is completely up Danny’s ass or swinging like a dingleberry doing god knows what for Danny slash nothing-just as in evy major production. There’re millions here: company people, managers, publicists, accountants, doctors, personal trainers, and so on. And let me tell you something, whenever you are in need of one of these people, you can always find them hanging out in the lobby. At least ESPN won’t have a problem trying to find someone to interview. But apparently that’s what you do when you work on one of these projects, ’cause the lobby is where we’re always congregating for longer than need be, as I have been for the last hour with Danny’s mum and “ons,” waiting for a driver and interpreter to take us on a little tour of the area-you know, while everyone’s doing piss all in the lobby. Leave it to the Australian to be the only one trying to embrace the culture a little here.

So I think I’m going to see China, and the next thing I know I find myself in China’s Target with no money, watching everybody buy those “still in theaters” DVDs for two bucks a pop. I couldn’t really care less, when out of nowhere (or somewhere or anywhere?) Danny’s mum decides she wants a microwave. You know what? That’s the most convenient thing to purchase while in China ’cause you never know when you’re going to need a microwave. I’m trying to see China, but instead I’m carrying a f-king microwave around Target.

Back at the hotel, and more importantly, back in the lobby because that’s the cool place to be, we posse up and head out to the Mega Mega Ramp, which is supposedly an hour-and-a-half drive. In the car-and our driver must have been a pro dodge ’em car racer, ’cause he really seems to be in a hurry, darting between vehicles with a mere two inches on either side-I appreciate the technique of the rudest drivers ever.

Approaching the Great Wall, let me tell you, this thing is a f-king monster. And I’m not even talking about the Wall, I’m talking about the ramp. This must be the most lethal, dangerous thing ever built for skateboarding. You look like an ant when you’re on it, and I know ’cause my pads are on and I’m drowning in a sea of Skatelite-that’s all I can see for miles in any and every direction.

To try and give you a grasp of how massive this thing really is, if you’re at the Point X Mega Ramp and you run and jump on your board down the landing ramp into the quarterpipe, you can do a six-foot backside air. On this one, do the same thing, and you’re twelve feet up, easy. I proceed to have a pivot to fakie contest ’cause last night Colin insisted he could do one before me. You know, the kid’s the world-renowned lip-trick champion, but little does he know that I’m better than him on the Mega Ramp-much less this Mega Mega quarterpipe that’s over 30 feet high. Jake Phelps puts down a 100 spot, and I take that from him no problem-this is good ’cause when you’re washed up there’s nothing like 100 dollars to give you a little confidence boost.

After Danny launchs a couple warm-up backside airs, he decides he’s going to jump the gap so he has a handle on tomorrow, the actual “official” day. The air is hot and humid, there’re flies and dragonflies swarming like mad (enough to make your cheek wobble when they hit you, and that’s just my observation from the landing to the quarterpipe, not even at the 50-plus miles an hour down the roll-in), an 80-foot gap lying before him, and a roll-in with a ghetto-rigged four-foot extension on top. Yes, Danny had the eye to predict that the 120-foot roll-in wasn’t gonna get him going fast enough-you just kind of know these things when you’re Danny Way.

I’m lying on the knuckle of the landing ramp so I can see him dropping in from the top. He disappears into the flats before the kicker, launches, and, uh-oh … he didn’t launch hard enough because he just caught his board midair-he knows exactly where he’s going, and it’s not on the landing. He’s headed for the deck, doing the wiggle-for-your-life wiggle, and he’s pretty good at that ’cause he’s pretty much the only person who’s ever had to wiggle for his life in skateboarding. A reverse Superman has him coming up short and landing feet first on the knuckle (better than on his ass ’cause his back would be broken)-his ankle folding completely over. The only way I can possibly describe it is to think of Evel Kneivel back in the day, landing and bouncing over the handlebars into some ragdoll catapult of doom. He hits hard, and I mean f-king hard. I’m shocked and claiming it’s all over as I kneeslide my way down the landing ramp. I can’t even believe this is happening. Danny isn’t moving.

“Dude, I think my ankle’s broken,” he says to me.

“No it’s not.” I feel it and it isn’t-if nothing else, my washed-up career has given me the ability to diagnose all kinds of broken bones.

“I gotta jump this thing, I gotta figure it out, I thought I was going fast enough!” as he lies there writhing in pain. He tries to walk on it but can’t. A million friggin’ people here, people’s entire careers on the line, and Danny’s lying lifeless on the flatbottom with no documented jumping of the Great Wall, and one not very probable at this point. And to think back, if Danny didn’t add on that extra four feet up top, Danny Way would have been Danny It’s Been Nice Knowing You.

You gotta look at the bright side of things sometimes, and Danny is, because while I just admitted I didn’t think another jump was possible, Danny’s demanding it’s going to happen-he’s, for his first time ever, calling for the cortisone. Cortisone is where it’s at. I had it in my ankle before a contest last year, and that’s why I was in the contest. So being the professional footballer/skateboarder that he is, he has his agent, manager, publicist, doctor, and personal trainer on it. He and Dr. B take off in the car and disappear to the hospital to see if they can get a cortisone shot-not to see if his ankle is broken, but to get a cortisone shot, ’cause when you’re Danny you deal with broken shit after you jump it.

It’s now midnight, and I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to jump that jump tomorrow, broken leg or not. It looked bad-I’m sure you’ll see the footage. His wife Kari was crying. It was pretty emotional for a while. It turns out that it was most likely the thick humidity that stopped him from flying through the air normally. But he ended up getting the cortisone injection, and now he’s back in his room getting massaged and iced.

They told me I’m doing some interviews for ESPN, so I’m doing that tomorrow. They also told Danny they’re going to shorten the gap to 70 feet, so if he overshoots it he can still beat the longest record or he can decide not to and just beat the highest air record. And basically it all depends on if his ankle can handle the G-forces, ’cause when the ankle spikes, the last thing you want to do is shoot over a 70-foot gap into a 35-foot quarterpipe at 50 to 60 miles per hour. You think it hurts to have a sprained ankle ollieing a f-kin’ curb, try this thing. It’s all ankle down the bottom of that transition. So tomorrow’s a big day-not only does Danny have to beat the world record, he has to beat the record with a ridiculously swollen, medicine-injected foot. And I’m not talking pussy busted, I’m talking fried in the deep fryer, riddled.

Day 3, July 9

After waking at five this morning ’cause I couldn’t sleep, then hanging out with Colin and Rob as they shopped for and bought everything ’cause they’re rich while my poor, not-that-cool ass gets a five-dollar Gucci belt, I’m in the bus and approaching the Mega Mega. There are a couple thousand people on all sides and definitely no skateboard fans other than those I recognize from “the lobby.” It’s pretty much all media, in fact: a thousand cameras, video cameras, voice recorders, tripods, and uh, Jake Phelps. Danny’s in the tent with the aforementioned entourage getting a rubdown, and I’m doing some 30-minute interview for ESPN where I’m supposed to be speaking about skateboarding in laymen’s terms, but for us skateboarders, I’ll refn skateboarding. A reverse Superman has him coming up short and landing feet first on the knuckle (better than on his ass ’cause his back would be broken)-his ankle folding completely over. The only way I can possibly describe it is to think of Evel Kneivel back in the day, landing and bouncing over the handlebars into some ragdoll catapult of doom. He hits hard, and I mean f-king hard. I’m shocked and claiming it’s all over as I kneeslide my way down the landing ramp. I can’t even believe this is happening. Danny isn’t moving.

“Dude, I think my ankle’s broken,” he says to me.

“No it’s not.” I feel it and it isn’t-if nothing else, my washed-up career has given me the ability to diagnose all kinds of broken bones.

“I gotta jump this thing, I gotta figure it out, I thought I was going fast enough!” as he lies there writhing in pain. He tries to walk on it but can’t. A million friggin’ people here, people’s entire careers on the line, and Danny’s lying lifeless on the flatbottom with no documented jumping of the Great Wall, and one not very probable at this point. And to think back, if Danny didn’t add on that extra four feet up top, Danny Way would have been Danny It’s Been Nice Knowing You.

You gotta look at the bright side of things sometimes, and Danny is, because while I just admitted I didn’t think another jump was possible, Danny’s demanding it’s going to happen-he’s, for his first time ever, calling for the cortisone. Cortisone is where it’s at. I had it in my ankle before a contest last year, and that’s why I was in the contest. So being the professional footballer/skateboarder that he is, he has his agent, manager, publicist, doctor, and personal trainer on it. He and Dr. B take off in the car and disappear to the hospital to see if they can get a cortisone shot-not to see if his ankle is broken, but to get a cortisone shot, ’cause when you’re Danny you deal with broken shit after you jump it.

It’s now midnight, and I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to jump that jump tomorrow, broken leg or not. It looked bad-I’m sure you’ll see the footage. His wife Kari was crying. It was pretty emotional for a while. It turns out that it was most likely the thick humidity that stopped him from flying through the air normally. But he ended up getting the cortisone injection, and now he’s back in his room getting massaged and iced.

They told me I’m doing some interviews for ESPN, so I’m doing that tomorrow. They also told Danny they’re going to shorten the gap to 70 feet, so if he overshoots it he can still beat the longest record or he can decide not to and just beat the highest air record. And basically it all depends on if his ankle can handle the G-forces, ’cause when the ankle spikes, the last thing you want to do is shoot over a 70-foot gap into a 35-foot quarterpipe at 50 to 60 miles per hour. You think it hurts to have a sprained ankle ollieing a f-kin’ curb, try this thing. It’s all ankle down the bottom of that transition. So tomorrow’s a big day-not only does Danny have to beat the world record, he has to beat the record with a ridiculously swollen, medicine-injected foot. And I’m not talking pussy busted, I’m talking fried in the deep fryer, riddled.

Day 3, July 9

After waking at five this morning ’cause I couldn’t sleep, then hanging out with Colin and Rob as they shopped for and bought everything ’cause they’re rich while my poor, not-that-cool ass gets a five-dollar Gucci belt, I’m in the bus and approaching the Mega Mega. There are a couple thousand people on all sides and definitely no skateboard fans other than those I recognize from “the lobby.” It’s pretty much all media, in fact: a thousand cameras, video cameras, voice recorders, tripods, and uh, Jake Phelps. Danny’s in the tent with the aforementioned entourage getting a rubdown, and I’m doing some 30-minute interview for ESPN where I’m supposed to be speaking about skateboarding in laymen’s terms, but for us skateboarders, I’ll refer to it: lame man’s terms. If you’ve seen the little 30-minute special on ESPN, you’ll understand. At least Danny’s someone who, when you’re kissing his ass for half an hour in front of a multimillion person audience, you actually mean it, so that really isn’t a thing.

As 4:00 p.m. comes around, I’m warming up with Danny, launching backside airs on the quarterpipe. Danny’s on the Mega Mega board, as opposed to just the Mega board (the Mega Mega’s got a longer wheelbase with bigger wheels-don’t worry, you couldn’t tre flip on either), but the tail is flexing crazily and Danny says the concave is off. Again, any discrepancies at 60 miles per hour aren’t cool, so entourage/skateboard mechanic Colin switches the Mega Mega trucks and bigger wheels onto the smaller-wheelbased Mega board and it’s on-I hope. A cortisone shot deep into the most f-ked up ankle I’ve ever seen-things just don’t seem right. We’re launching four- to eight-foot airs, and Danny’s looking nervous, probably because he can barely walk. I think I’m more nervous, but of course I’m telling him, “Oh yeah, it looks good,” as we take the mile hike to the top.

Ankle-braced and juiced, we’re sweating to the top, and the only words I could possibly let come from my mouth are in Danny’s direction and contain phrases like, “You’re the best,” and “This ain’t shit.” He’s not really listening, but he better damn well be telling himself the same. We get to the peak, and I will call it a peak ’cause this drop might as well be a mountain. Danny stands on the barely-wider-than-his-board extension, and says, “I think the trucks are still a little loose.” As I call down to Robbie D. for a skate key, I hear, “F-k it,” look over, and he’s gone. I reluctantly peak over the edge, see him dropping to earth yet still trying to get every next mile per hour pumping like a motherf-ker. He takes off the kicker, catches his board in midair, feet wiggling, and is in the air so long, he actually has the time to contemplate putting the board back under his feet as he’s sure he’s cleared it, but he smartly tosses it away and kneeslides the landing, as he’s slightly off course. I hustle down to the landing, and while he didn’t ride away, he’s relieved he knows he can make the distance. But unlike most initial fears that are overcome by a first go, the butterflies ain’t going away yet.

The second drop-in and maybe the butterflies did go away-Danny launches to a straight backside grab, puts all four wheels down, and rides away down the landing ramp like a bat out of hell. Still wobbly, he comes to the flat before the quarterpipe, recomposes himself after looping it a bit (and this is the most terrifying part of my day, and I’m sure Danny’s as well) and skies a 25-foot air from hell out of sheer adrenalin. His board goes varial, but he still manages to catch it Indy, again thinks about putting it back, and again smartly decides against it, free-falling nearly 45 feet from the sky onto his knees and into the tranny.

So there you go, Danny Way jumped the Great Wall Of China. Of course, he’s freaking out. It’s a Cinderella story like Bill Murray told you. Half in awe, yet all in confidence that he knew he could do it the whole time, he moseys about the flatbottom raising his hands in the air and jumping for joy. The raising of the hands is not overdramatic like Bob Barker just awarded you a new car, more like you just finished the Boston marathon.Stepping off the ramp, ESPN can’t even get to the front of the line-Danny’s doing an interview with a woman so goofy she’s got to be with Chinese Nickelodeon. In his rightfully emotional state, Danny talks, but he can’t even contain himself-his answers are scrambled and jibberish. He might as well have been talking Chinese.

Out of the media swarm and with confidence like the war is already won, he says to me, “I’m gonna three this shit.” Sure enough, first damn time. Hitting the landing and looking better than last time, he hits the quarter into anot