Friday, April 07, 2006

ATH: Big Jump!

Big Drop! Skateboarder Launches 28 Feet to Ramp
Danny Way Completes Record-Breaking Jump in Vegas
By NANCY CHANDROSS


April 7, 2006 — - In a true marriage of skateboarding and rock 'n' roll, pro skater Danny Way hurled himself off a giant Fender Stratocaster guitar for a record-breaking 28-foot free fall onto a ramp.

The event Thursday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was postponed by a day after bad weather initially halted his attempt. There were also complications with the ramp as designed by Way, but he was determined to pull off the stunt.

"Despite the variables in the ramp design. … We managed to make this challenge happen," Way said after he landed. "This event demonstrates the continued progression of skateboarding."

The previous world record for a "Big Air" jump was 12 feet, 3 inches, something Way was eager to change.

"I'm a little bit of a daredevil, so I do have that fire that burns," said Way by telephone as he prepared for the Vegas event. "I like to see what I'm capable of."

Those who follow skateboarding closely know he's capable of plenty.

The 31-year-old is an X Games gold medalist and has a string of firsts on his bio: world records in distance jumps and the distinction of being the only person to jump from a helicopter on a skateboard. His last high-profile event had him skateboarding across the Great Wall of China. (Click here to watch video of the jump.)

Despite these accomplishments, he had some jitters before he jumped from the Hard Rock Casino. "I get pretty nervous. I mean, I am human," he said. "I've got a family, a wife and two kids."

Skateboarding Physicist
Before he could conquer the Great Wall or consider leaping from a giant Fender Stratocaster guitar, Way knew he first had to nail a math problem.

Hanging out on a skateboard and crunching numbers may sound like an odd mix of hobbies, but he learned early on that when it comes to vertical skating it's all about physics.

"When I was about 11 years old, I built my first ramp in my backyard, learned about dimensions and G-force and angles … and all the geometry that goes into the success of any design of a ramp."

Since then he has pushed the sport by building larger ramps and achieving higher jumps in competition. But even with math and science on his side these are high-risk activities, leaving the skateboard star with a long list of injuries.

Way has had such a rough time of it, he actually struggled to recall precisely how many surgeries he's had in the past five years from skateboarding injuries, saying it was about "nine or 10."

"I've been injured so many times in my life I just cherish the times in my life when I'm not," said Way.

During a practice run for his successful jump across the Great Wall last year, he fell and badly injured an ankle. "There's no history, there's nothing I can look at to go by, so my calculations are just based on my experience," said Way.

While lots of people would probably call it a day after so many injuries, Way is not looking to park his board just yet. And his goals are surprisingly normal for the crowd he rolls with.

Joining him for the event in Las Vegas was pro skater Bob Buhrnquist, who just finished his own unique stunt. "He was out in Arizona last week and built a ramp into the Grand Canyon with a rail," said Way. "We're looking around going 'Hey, you're crazy. No, you're crazy!'"

Rock 'n' Roll, Safely
He's made a career out of death-defying leaps but is careful to remind that he is an athlete.

To prepare for his jump in Las Vegas, Way built a prototype of the ramp in the California desert where he could practice. "I don't think people necessarily think skateboarders are that strict," said Way. "The training is just a regimen for me now. … Every day I work out to some extent and my diet's a huge part of my training." Getting that message across is part of what motivates him to tackle high-profile jumps.

"I've been skateboarding my whole life, and I look at all the exposure other sports get," said Way. "If I can be a guy that can contribute to the success of the sport and draw more attention to it -- I feel like I'm doing my part."

And despite the approach of his 32nd birthday next week, he'll keep doing this for the near future. "I want to do as much as I can for as long as I can," said Way. "I don't know when that day is going to come that I'll say, 'Hey it's time to pull the reins back or mellow out.'

"I'm in good shape, but I just hope my ambition doesn't take me somewhere dangerous. … I just hope it doesn't do some damage that I can't repair," said Way.

Ultimately, he joked his biggest nerves are probably aimed at his kids. He has 7- and 4-year-old boys and admitted when they take risks and get hurt he gets "super freaked out."

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