Saturday, August 1, 2009

Riding the Big Air Rail--No Matter What

Last night, I curled up on the couch with my three boys and watched a brand new skateboarding event in the X Games. The event, called the Big Air Rail Jam, was the brain-child of skateboarding veteran Danny Way who was the oldest skater in the competition at 35 (Which by the way, sassy ESPN commentators, is not that old). The goal of the event was to start at the top of a ridiculously high ramp (see pic) and then launch into the air, do some sort of trick on top of a long rail, and land on the opposite ramp while still in one piece.

The kicker? The skaters couldn't see the rail until they were already flying off the first ramp. The event required faith in their skills and some serious courage.

Danny Way won the gold medal in the event, a feat made even more amazing by the fact that he was competing while on crutches.


He'd torn something in his knee and then seriously rolled his ankle on the same leg during a warm up trick yet he stood, balanced on his skateboard at the top of that long drop, confident and determined. He rode down the ramp innumerable times, missing the rail, landing in a heap, struggling to stand on one good leg only to hop to the side and rush toward the elevator that would carry him up to the top to try it all over again.

It didn't occur to him to quit. To bow out. To say, after four unsuccessful tries, that he just couldn't do it. Instead, he got back on his board, faced that long drop to the unknown, and went for it.

He landed one trick. One. But it was a thing of incredible beauty. That one trick gained a score high enough to give him the gold.

When interviewed afterwards and asked how he could compete when he couldn't even walk, Danny said, "It was my dream. Some people look at things and say 'It can't be done.' I look at things and say 'What if?'"

What if?

What if you balanced on the edge of your dream, unable to see the rail, but went for it anyway? What if you failed the first four (hundred) times you tried but you still ran back to the start and tried again? What if you ignored every excuse, every reason to quit, and refused to back down?

What if?


  1. OMG! This is a fabulous post. I'm sure I've been knocked down more than 400 times, but I'm still going.

  2. What if indeed?

    Thank you CJ. I needed this today.

  3. What if you accepted defeat, smiled and moved on to a different dream?

  4. I think if you keep accepting defeat and moving on, you might run out of dreams.

    Of course, I've seen some of the American Idol auditions so well I guess you have to make sure it's the right dream for you. This was inspiring, C.J. Thanks.

  5. I think if I decided to attempt skateboarding, I'd deserve whatever heinous injury that broke me in half.
    (Something seems wrong with that sentence, but I can't put my finger on it.)

  6. Ok, here's the thing.
    I don't want to rain on this love-fest, but this story does not inspire me at all.
    I've "played with pain" and "sucked it up" many times.
    It's really not that big a deal.
    Here's a much more interesting couple of scenarios:
    What if he was competing, knowing his father was on his death bed, possibly missing his last opportunity to talk with him? Or maybe his father just died, and he promised his father he would do this one stunt for him, and now his father would never know?
    What if his girlfriend/wife threatened to leave him if he completes the jump, especially with all those injuries? She doesn't want to have to live with such a reckless man. So by completing the jump, he fulfills his dream but crushes his relationship.
    It's all about the stakes.
    Maybe little cancer-stricken Jimmy is in the stands, and wants to see the double-blind loopy-360 twist before he dies.
    This is what separates hero from ego-centric narcissistic show-off.
    Maybe this competition is funding his drug/gambling/online porn habit and he literally can't stop until his body lies broken at the bottom of the ramp. So really the pain he experiences is nothing compared to the withdrawal symptoms from these activities.
    I want to know why he's taken this huge risk. Because if it's just for glory and ego, then I say "meh". I'd prefer to watch Homer Simpson jump Springfield Gorge. That had meaning.

  7. Some things like this just scare the crap out of me.

  8. lapetus999: I think his stake had to be great for him, even if it was just for personal glory. He wouldn't have done it if he didn't have *something* invested in it.

    I want to have a book published. Just for me. It's my dream. I don't have a dying father's wish to fulfill or little cancer-stricken Jimmy in my corner. I just have a dream. And if things get tough, I'm still going to try to fulfill that dream.

    If the story doesn't inspire you, fine. But for me, I like to hear about people who will strive for their dreams, just to fulfill their dreams.

  9. LOVE this post! And thanks for filling us in on this new sport. My boys and I will be definitely be tuning in in the future.


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