Everybody loves a good redemption story. Danny Renaud's meteoric rise through Mosaic ('03) and Static 3 ('07)—then catastrophic nine-story fall on January 9th, 2008 in Miami—is about as literal an example of professional skateboarding's brutal seesaw effect as there is. In the six years since, smatterings of sightings and hopeful photos here and there have hinted at a full comeback. But in 2014, finally more or less completely healed from the fall, with full backing from Politic and back on his home turf in Miami—Danny Renaud—owner of one of the best styles of the '00s period—might just be back for good.- Mackenzie Eisenhour
PHOTOS BY Allen Ying
What have you been up to lately?
I've recently moved back to Miami from NYC. I'm so lucky to call this tropical paradise home. Been skating a lot with good friends and working on some skate projects. I've also recently started teaching inner-city kids to skate with this charity down here called the Miami Children's Initiative. Their mission is to keep kids out of trouble and see that they make it into college. I also rescue dogs from kill shelters and try to place them in good homes with my better half. The goal is to one day start a rescue of our own. Other than that, trying to stay in shape and just living.
Did it feel good having tricks in Static 4 ['14]. Do you feel 100-percent?
I was definitely stoked to have footage in Josh's latest installment of Static. I've had the pleasure of being showcased in every one of the Static series—sort of. I'm glad it took him so long to put out the last vid, because between three and four I had enough time to get seriously injured, recover, and skate long enough to get at a level where I could film some skate tricks again. Thanks, Josh. As far as feeling 100-percent—I mean, I feel pretty good on my board, and the more time that goes by, the stronger I feel.
From what I understand, your last surgery was in August of 2011. Have there been any more health issues since then?
That sounds about right, as far as major surgeries go, but I've also had two minor surgeries on my right ankle, where I had my joints shaved down for more rotation and another surgery to have scar tissue removed. I had a ton of it. I'm pretty sure that's the last bit of work I'm going to do on myself for a while, until the lipo [laughs]. I am 30, you know.
For the kids who might not know, can you give me the story of the fall in a nutshell? It was a party with some random kids you met?
Well, in a nutshell, I allowed myself to spiral completely out of fucking control, so it doesn't really matter who, what, or where I was when I had my accident, because the way I was living, something bad/tragic was just bound to happen to me. And it did. Basically, as the story goes, I fell nine stories, out of an apartment building in downtown Miami. That night I was at a party and blacked out, so I have no memory of the accident whatsoever; the impact and severity of the fall, mixed with the booze, erased it all. Maybe it's a blessing.
Needless to say, I ended up in critical condition, and there was talk about the possibility of having to amputate my leg, which a nurse would tell me right before they put me under for surgery. Comforting stuff, not knowing if I was going to wake up with a leg or not. Anyway, following the fall, detectives starting conducting a CSI type of investigation, thinking that this was mob related, or attempted murder, that someone might have thrown me off the balcony. For all I know, shit, that could've happened.
What I can tell you are the facts, and the facts are that I had fallen from the 18th floor to the ninth floor. On the way down I hit a few guardrails, which slowed down my fall, and that's probably the reason why I'm still alive.
The ninth floor of the apartment building is where the pool deck was, and the way that it was constructed was that it stuck out further than the apartment balconies, and that's where I landed—on that pool deck. I don't like to think that I fell; I like to think that I survived.
You had compound fractures in both legs and had your spleen and part of your pancreas removed, is that about right?
Pretty much. I mean, fractured is putting it lightly. I had compound fractures in both my legs, which are the ugly breaks, the ones you see in horror movies—where the bones are poking through the skin. My tibias and fibulas in both my legs were so jacked, that inches of my bones had to be cut out and re-grown, which took six months in one leg and two years in the other. Yeah, I really screwed myself up.
The near two years of recovery in the halos sounded like hell. What do you take away from that time?
I feel like I'm disconnected when it comes to my accident, like a part of me wants to act like it never happened. But it did. That was definitely a dark period of time for sure. It was rock bottom for me, no question about that. I never take anything for granted anymore, or at least I try not to. I also keep a clear head on my shoulders these days. I never want my judgment to be clouded or fuzzy again.
Have you changed anything in your lifestyle? A lot of dudes got sober, went vegan, started stretching, ice baths… Have you switched it up? Are you still doing yoga and acupuncture?
Well, I've stopped drinking completely, and don't do any drugs whatsoever. I have no coping crutches. I just grit life and bare it. I definitely take care of myself these days. I hit the gym a couple times a week, constantly stretch, and try to make good decisions when it comes to eating. As I'm saying this, I just ordered dinner in a bucket—buffalo wings. So maybe I'll say I'm vegan until 5:00 p.m. [laughs]. I back yoga 100 percent, man. Get as limber as possible. I haven't had any acupuncture in a while. I just wasn't seeing much results from it.
Can you give a brief summary of how you got into skating? Favorite skaters coming up? Favorite videos?
Got into skating the same way a lot of people get into it. I saw some older/cooler kids doing it and thought it was something I could get into. Got a board from K-mart and would thumb through CCS catalogs, daydreaming about having a good setup. I think that was it. Just having a magazine and seeing something that was bigger than Polk County, Florida, got me psyched—like seeing pictures of pros skating in California.
I guess I was just fascinated with the whole counterculture of skateboarding. My favorite skaters growing up were Andrew Reynolds, Reese Forbes, and Tim O'Connor. As far as best video goes, in my opinion the best skate video ever made was Alien Workshop's Photosynthesis ['00]—orange tape all day.
Best memory from the Mosaic ['03] days?
Wow, really jogging the old memory here. Um, I was 19 in 2003, so everything was green to me back then. One of the best memories about those Mosaic days was working with Joe Castrucci and Brennan Conroy. I mean, I could call those dudes whenever and talk about ideas of skating somewhere and trying to get some trick, sometimes I would film a trick and get right on the phone and talk about it with them. I was definitely excited and very OCD about trying to film for that vid. Just turning pro for them, even though it was short-lived, was a huge deal for me. When I first saw my pro model, the jailbreak graphic, I was on cloud nine. I remember they made a poster ad with that graphic that ran along with a sequence of a skate trick. I called that poster my "pro-ster." Wish I had held on to one of those for safekeeping. [Ed Note: somebody please send Danny this poster.]
Was it weird to see Habitat almost go down with Alien Workshop?
Definitely weird. I still don't believe that Alien went under, probably because by the time this interview comes out, it will be back up and running, fingers crossed. When I heard about Alien, it felt like part of my childhood died. I'm glad that Habitat has Phoenixed out of the ashes and found a new home. Their graphics and team are just too good to go down like that.
How are things with Politic now? Are you involved in the direction of the company?
Riding for Politic is great. They're making it possible for me to continue to do what I love. As far as the direction of the company goes, they're a rad East Coast company that asks input of all its riders before any big decisions are made, which I believe is key. So in a way, every rider is involved in the direction of the brand.
When can we expect a full Danny Renaud comeback part?
Well, Politic is planning on doing its first full-length video, which if all goes according to plan, should be out in a year or so. As far as a comeback part goes, I don't know, man. I mean, I'll put out a part and let the viewers decide if it's good or what not. To quote LL, "Don't call it a comeback."
Plane-crash survivors sometimes change their entire worldview after surviving something like that—find God, believe they were saved, all of that. How do you look at this second run at skateboarding for a living? Is it heavily defined by the first run?
This time around it's different for me, because I'm aware of what's going on and I would be an asshole to make the same mistake twice. I have the same approach as before, where I come up with ideas that I think are good and seeing them through. If people are into it, that's great. My approach to skateboarding is the same as before, but my lifestyle isn't. My experience has made me so grateful to be here and walking around in one piece, let alone be actually given the chance to skate again.
People you would like to thank:
Yeah, I'd like to thank a few people: my parents and immediate family, my loving girlfriend Gabby and her family, Politic, MIA Skate Shop, Venture Trucks, Tim O'Connor, adidas skateboarding, Josh Stewart, Andrew Petillo, Ian O'Connor, Joe Perrin, Dango, Dorsi and Fred at Domestics; and anyone who's helped me along the way. Cheers.
Cop Static IV/V HERE.
See new Renaud clips in Politic’s Mid Worst Trip video.