Film Review: Waiting for Lightning

Even without its central subject actually weighing in, this likeably scruffy documentary tells you a lot about the impetus behind shredding and being gnarly.

Your jaw may very well drop while witnessing the uncanny skateboard agility of Danny Way in Waiting for Lightning, Jacob Rosenberg’s vividly watchable documentary about this legendary cult figure. Way, born in 1974, had an ultimate dream and that was to jump over the Great Wall of China on his skateboard in 2005.

Rosenberg reveals Way’s early, troubled life, coming from a broken home, with a father who died in jail. His drug-addicted mom is interviewed about her former hippie ways which had such a formative effect on her sons, Danny and Damon, the founder of DC Shoes, one of the film’s producers. A stepfather instilled their love of skateboarding, making them himself for the boys. Danny took that toy to unprecedented lengths, shredding up a storm and winning competitions and garnering masses of publicity.

The fact that Way himself is not present in the film, except in archival footage, is an undoubted liability to our understanding of him, and why he so consistently pushes himself to the edge of—to use the film’s favorite word—gnarliness. So it’s left to the viewer to either believe in the opinions of his intimates who are interviewed or draw one’s own conclusions. Whichever, this film provides a lot of visual thrill and may even give you some insight into all those kids you see taking up—and sometimes destroying—all those public spaces.