Jake Yanko started skateboarding when he was seven years old. He joined the Monster Army roster in 2019 and has been shredding ever since. Last weekend, Jake competed in the Rip Ride Rally in Philly, and crushed it… literally. During his first event, Jake crashed into the knee of East Coast legend Fred Gall, resulting in some pretty intense neck pain. He took a step back from the rest of the contest, until the last event, where he decided to do a full send, and tried out the “Killer Pillar.” Now here’s the plot twist you don’t hear every day, Jake shut down the “Killer Pillar” with a fractured neck. We had to talk to this kid about what happened and what was going through his mind during this two-day event.
How did you get the invite to skate the Rip Ride Rally in Philadelphia, and tell us a little bit about the event?
Rhino from Independent Trucks shot me an invite a few months before the event took place. The Rip Ride Rally was a two-day event put on by Independent and Monster Energy, where some skaters were invited to skate the FDR Skatepark and skate a few obstacles that they built specifically for the event.
Rumor has it that this isn’t the first time you’ve hurt your neck, is that true?
The first time I broke my neck was back in August of 2020 right after I graduated from high school. I was swimming at my friend pool, and I thought that if I squeezed my arms and body inside a small inner tube and jumped in the pool headfirst, I would just be bobbing upside down with my feet in the air, and it would look funny. My genius plan didn’t work, and I ended up fracturing the C1 vertebrae wing in my neck from hitting the bottom of the pool.
Can you walk us through what happened when you hurt your neck at Rip Ride Rally?
Yeah, it was during the first event of Saturday at FDR. They built this new mini ramp with a spine for the event, and they decided to start the day off with a free-for-all on it. At one point I think I counted five people on the ramp at once… it was so hectic. I was falling forward on a trick and Fred Gall was heading toward me about to go up the quarter. People told me that his knee was what hit me in the head and tweaked my neck. I honestly just remember falling and then my head and neck hurting.
Colliding into the East Coast legend Fred Gall’s knee is pretty badass and ironic, what was going through your mind when it happened?
Yeah! Out of all the people it could’ve been, it ends up being the crust king. I didn’t know it was Fred Gall until after the fall and people were coming up to me telling me “Yo you hurt Fred Gall’s knee pretty bad! He just walked off!”. I tried talking to him that day, but I couldn’t find him. We ended up talking after the contest over DM and everything’s good.
So you heard something crack, your neck felt weird, and then you didn’t skate until the very last sub event. What made you decide to do the “Killer Pillar”?
On Thursday, the Monster team and I went to FDR to get a feel for the park, and the building crew had just finished building the pillar wallride. I was having a lot of fun just kickturning it, and I think I got one kickturn up to the black graffiti letters. So in the back of my head, I knew there was a chance that I could make it to the top of it. As the contest day went on, and they were getting closer to starting the pillar event, I went over to it and did some kickturns. I figured that all I was doing was a kickturn and the worst fall I was going to take was a butt slide, so I decided to chance it. Happy I did!
The Killer Pillar is 12 feet of vert. 12 feet! The grand finale of the contest. And you decide to go for it with an injury. You touched the top, the crowd was screaming. Going into it, what the hell made you decide to do this?
I knew that the guys built that thing with the idea that someone had to hit the top of it. No one else was really trying to get up there, so I figured the least I could do is try. Hugging all the homies after felt better than doing the trick honestly.
After the contest, when did you find out you actually broke your neck? How long did you wait?
I was a little preoccupied with celebrating after the contest, so I decided to get it checked out the next day. Said goodbye to some of the homies and then Liam Pace and I decided that we’d go to the Liberty Bell and checked out Congress Hall before the ER. We didn’t think that the neck injury was too serious. I was really just going to get it checked out for some peace of mind, but it ended up being a little more serious than I thought it was going to be.
What’s the recovery for you now? What part of your neck did you injure?
I fractured the C7 vertebrae wing. It’s a stable fracture, so I’m not going to need any sort of surgery or procedure. I went to a neurologist yesterday, and they told me that I’m just going to have to wear this neck brace for three months, and then I’ll need a month or two of PT after.
What event are you, or planning on, going to next?
Well, any event that was planned for 2022 is off the table. I’ll just have to wait and see how I’m feeling in the early 2023 months and go from there.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Jake. We’re all so stoked to hear you’ll make a full recovery and will be out shredding again soon!