“Waiting for Lightning”

Susan Granger’s review of “Waiting for Lightning” (Samuel Goldwyn Films)


While intrepid skateboarder Danny Way made a spectacular jump over the Great Wall of China back in 2005, Jacob Rosenberg’s promotional documentary focuses far more on his acumen as a technical innovator and marketing expert.

Like many extreme sports stars, Danny Way had a difficult childhood. Born in 1974, he grew up in Vista, north of San Diego in Southern California. His father died during a short stint in jail as his mother was waging a battle against drug and alcohol addiction. During the brief period that he was married to Way’s hippie mother, his stepfather instilled his love for skateboarding. And, later, his mentor, Mike Ternasky, died in a car accident. Nothing, however, deterred Way’s tenacious determination to become a ‘gnarly’ pioneer and excel at his chosen vocation.

According to Way, “It’s all in your head; you just gotta spend time on it.”

A longtime friend, writer/director Jacob Rosenberg concentrates primarily on Way’s preparations for making his awe-inspiring leaps, including stunts on his patented MegaRamp.  Way once aced jumping out of a helicopter onto a skate ramp. But there were problems. In China, for example, the rickety original ramp caused him to crash in a test run, winding up in a hospital because of his injuries.  After that was corrected and before he made the enormous 65-foot leap in China, his mother gave him his stepfather’s ashes for inspiration.

What’s most egregiously missing is any personal insight into or commentary by Danny Way, who is only reverentially glimpsed in archival footage. Friends, family and colleagues, like fellow boarder Tony Hawk, daredevil Travis Pastrana and surfer Laird Hamilton, talk about him – but Way remains an enigma, except to endorse DV Shoes, the company owned by his mother Mary and brother Damon, which becomes one of the film’s prime financial endorsements.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Waiting for Lightning” is a high-flying 5, a fantastically visual diversion for aspiring skateboarders.