Bode Merrill

What’s it like growing up riding on rope tows?

Danimals: It’s the best. Ask anyone who’s come from out of town and they’ll tell you.

Jake OE: I think the better question would be, “What’s it like growing up snowboarding on chairlifts?”, because honestly, to me it’s crazy! It’s so different, so slow. It’s slow as fuck!

Rope tows are really fast compared to chairlifts.

D: I’m not against chairlifts, though. They’re just a lot slower.

J: They suck.

So snowboarding to you guys is pretty much only riding rope tows?

D: Yes. The main thing is you go to the resort and don’t unstrap for, like, hours. That’s snowboarding.

Do you guys feel that affected your learning curve? Like, how you were figuring out new tricks?

D: Yeah. You don’t have to try as hard because if you try something once, it’s not as crucial as when someone from out West goes once. They get one hit, one time, and then have to take a ten-minute chair back up, strap in… By the time they get back to hit it again it can be ten or fifteen minutes. For us, if we mess up that one time, it’s whatever, because we can just take a twenty-second ride back up and do it again. Same goes if you get cut off, no big deal, you can get another try in seconds. This is why if I cut someone off at Bear Mountain and they’re pissed at me, I understand and I’m like, All right, I get it. Sorry!

I’m a really big fan of both Jake and Dan. Jake is reckless and unpredictable while Dan is calm and collected. Just a couple of good ol’ boys from Minnesota doing their darndest to keep snowboarding interesting. Two examples of why I secretly love rail riders. - Bryan Fox

Do you guys think there should be more rope tows around? Should every resort have one next to their park?

J: It actually blows my mind that that’s not the case. Every park could have a tow rope, as it’s way cheaper versus a chairlift. Resorts just don’t get it. When you suggest it, they just don’t understand what you’re talking about, but it’s the easiest thing.

D: A lot of places have them out East and up in Canada, but it’s really popular in the Midwest because the resorts are so small. I think Kuzyk was saying the resort where he grew up had one.

Yeah, but he’s from Winnipeg—that resort is probably a ditch!

D: Hyland is kinda like a ditch!

No, I’d say it’s a bump! Honestly, this shit blows my mind every time I go to Minnesota—I don’t understand how you guys get so good riding that kind of place.

D: I think all the resorts around here caught on—every single resort has a tow rope.

J: Honestly, I think the only reason is because it’s cheaper. Instead of installing this huge structure for a chairlift that you need two people to run, why not just have this cheap tow rope that does the same job?

D: You never have to unstrap AND you never get cold! It can be zero degrees and you’ll still be shedding layers in no time!

On these hills you don’t really get endless amounts of speed, so you need to be pumping every little thing. I kinda feel like it’s a disadvantage, but at the same time it just make you guys more hungry to pump the shit out of whatever is in front of you.

D: I think that stuff is fun! When you find a cool line, you have to pump this thing and then pop off of this next thing and land perfectly into this next thing. It’s awesome! That’s my favorite stuff.

It feels so much closer to skating to me. I figured it out last time I was there that coming out of the tow rope you really have to pull on it to get that extra speed to hit the natural berm that forms right there.

D: Yeah, as soon as you pull off that rope there’s no time to hang there; we all just mob straight to the bottom. We hit everything, sometimes even just airing over the rails and stuff.

J: Yeah, it’s like survival of the fittest! Snake or be snaked! It is what it is—if you’re going fast enough, you won’t get snaked!

Yeah, whenever I’m there it feels like all the little kids who are so good are just snaking the shit out of me. It’s like they’re all trying to look like you guys!

J: But they probably didn’t even realize they were snaking you; that’s just the way it is. It’s crazy, because when I was growing up there was a whole other era of rad guys that rode there, and when I was really little, it was super intimidating. You had to build up this courage to take the speed into the rope in front of this guy that was bigger than you or when dropping before this other guy. You had to learn that you had to be going faster than him in order to be hitting this jump, or else every time you would stop someone would go in front of you and you could never hit it. I guess you had to learn the rhythm. Everyone figures it out nowadays; it’s a-no brainer!

D: It’s different now—those little kids are ruthless nowadays! Back then it was a challenge to even get a hit in on a jump. When I was thirteen, it was a big deal to call “drop” before you hit a jump. Everybody would sit in this zone and you would call “drop,” and then you’d go. Then another person would call “drop next,” and they would drop next. I was so young, and you had to have a lot of courage to yell “drop” and have all these older dudes watch you hit this jump and then be like, you could die! You would just know in the back of your mind that those guys were probably just laughing at you up there. I remember sometimes I would yell “drop,” and these guys would just drop anyway, but if they yelled “drop,” and I went they’d be like, “The fucking bunny hill is that way.” Straight up! Nowadays I don’t think little kids are even intimidated by us, haha! We’ve gotten soft.

Bode Merrill

How was it when you guys were really young at Hyland? Was there a crew of people that were ripping? Do we know these people?

J: When I first started going it was my friend’s older brother and his crew, but it was a lot different. They had a halfpipe back then, and a park which was only on the small side with two jumps in a row.

So there were no rails at all?

J: No rails. But they did eventually put up a rubber rail! It was a rail that was pure rubber, so if anyone caught their edge they would die and also leave a huge indent. The dopest part about that rail was that if you 50-50d it, it would leave a vertical line on your base, but if you boardslid it, it would leave a perpendicular mark on your base. So when you walked into the chalet, you could see who boardslid the rubber rail! I never did it, but it was a big deal.

D: You were a generation above me, I think, and looking up to people I didn’t even know about. I remember looking up to you guys, because I was even younger at the time.

J: I remember back in the day they didn’t want to have the halfpipe where the skiers could see it, so they put it as far off to the side as they could and the guys would just build tombstones on that shitty halfpipe. I remember as a kid going over there with my buddy wanting so bad to ride with them; they could like smoke weed and do whatever they wanted… But they wouldn’t let you—it was like this territorial thing because they built all the stuff. It was a different vibe... I think they were tougher.

Bode Merrill

Danimals. Minneapolis, MN

I guess they probably didn’t have people working in the park maintaining stuff…

J: No, they just had a halfpipe that the resort cut once, and that was it. Hyland just let them have that space and we would try to go there, but they’d be throwing snowballs at us, yelling “Get the fuck out of here!” Literally, I cut a guy off once and he shook me! Threw me off my board for cutting him off!

D: I never felt like I couldn’t be in the park growing up, but I was always very conscious of what was going on around me, you know? Nowadays we just send it; we just rip nonstop and it doesn’t matter what’s going on. Back in the day I’d definitely get a lot of runs in but I would also sit around a bunch waiting for my turn, making sure I wasn’t getting in the way of someone’s rotation and stuff.

Etiquette, like at the skatepark. When you’re younger you watch out for the older dudes who are killing it. You don’t want to be the kook getting in the way.

J: I feel like it’s different now. For example, if a kid cut off Dan, Dan would be stoked!

D: Oh, I love it; I think it’s so tight! I encourage it. Haha!

J: It’s awesome when you get to a rail and get that eye contact. Like, “Who’s gonna hit it first?” I swear, 90% of the time people back down. But 10% of the time, there’ll be a kid that just doesn’t, and I’m so stoked! I think it’s cool, ’cause I do the same thing.

D: Or like that jump we’ve been hitting lately—there will be little kids dropping and I’ll just pull off the rope and we’ll be side by side, and I’ll just hit it in the air with them!

J: That’s the best. It’s so fun!

D: The sketchiest thing is when you follow a little kid up the rainbow box and you think they’re gonna make it over nice and easy and you’re coming in hot behind them, and you’re like, “I’m gonna be fine!” But then they just creep and kinda get stuck at the top…sometimes they get out of the way just in time and you just both squeeze by, but sometimes you hit the kid—then you kinda just have to grab him and hold on to him so he doesn’t fall off the top of the rainbow box. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Chad actually go around a kid on that box! Not even kidding.

So when did you guys discover powder?

J: This year.

D: HAHAHAHA!

Nah, you’ve been in the powder before, right?

J: Last year, there was this one epic run I took in Japan that really opened my eyes and I realized that all that work is worth it for that one run or whatever you get, you know? With powder, I thought you only got one really good run, at least from my perspective. Like, you go to Brighton early morning, you get one run, and next thing you know it’s done! And I’m like, “Fuck, I wanna do it twice! I wanna do it a hundred times!” So yeah, I never really understood, but then I finally got that one really good run, and now this year I got to go to Baldface and did like thirty-five epic runs! That was my first real powder experience; Japan last year was sweet, but it was different—we were riding the chairlift and trying to film stuff, and the run I remember was when I ditched the crew and I went all the way down, top to bottom! I was like, “That’s what I wanna do!” I didn’t want to scope halfway down and stop. But anyways, Baldface was rad because every single run was straight down, top-to-bottom, in epic snow!

What about you, Dan?

D: I’ve definitely ridden powder before, always just at a resort where I’d happened to catch good days. I have a relative that lives in Colorado, so we used to go out there at least once every winter and we would go while everyone there was in school or working, so we would have a week to kinda like ride the resort and hopefully there wouldn’t be as many people there. I used to go with a friend of mine and we caught some pretty good snow days out at Winter Park. One trip I won’t forget was a spring break trip to Montana where we had awesome snow. It dumped like two feet every day at Moonlight Basin, which was connected to Big Sky, but no one rode Moonlight. Everyone rode Big Sky because Moonlight only had one-and-a-half chairlifts, pretty much. We had the sickest tree runs and the best crew of friends. We were just having fun rag-dolling! We’d go through these rollers, hook our noses, ragdoll with goggles flying, and we would just have the biggest smile on our faces. Meanwhile everyone else went to Mexico, haha! Typical spring break. That was really when I discovered powder. I’ve ridden some okay powder since then, but nothing ever quite like that. Japan was good, though; we got a lot of riding in there aside from filming. Lots of runs in the snow without goggles.

Bode Merrill

I fell in love with Jake one summer during a Videograss tour through Europe. He wore flip flops and I got ringworm. Danimals is like a warm apple pie; American perfection that you cannot dislike or improve on. Danimals is the Nicolas Müller of the streets. - Austin Smith

Bode Merrill

Jake OE. Minneapolis, MN

What do you think about people saying that “jibbing” is not really snowboarding?

D: I’d say it’s just as much snowboarding as anything else; it’s just different.

J: I think you identify snowboarding with what you grew up on, so if you grew up where there’s mostly jibbing, that’s how you’re gonna snowboard, and that’s why I figure it’s kinda selfish for people that grew up in the mountains to say that jibbing isn’t snowboarding. That’s not fair just because you grew up in the mountains and we grew up in the city; we snowboard on what we have, you snowboard on what you have. Honestly, I swear powder is a lot better! It’s different, and you can’t really compare it, I guess.

D: I think what’s pretty sick about when we get to ride powder is that it’s a treat for us! I really enjoy it. I love powder just as much as anyone. If someone asked me if I could ride powder or rails for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose powder. I would definitely do it because I haven’t really had the chance to do it. All I wanna do is expand our snowboarding.

J: I think that actually is it—snowboarding is riding powder.

D: What the hell, you’re just changing your mind now?

J: No, it is! But no one gets that chance to experience it—that’s the problem. As soon as they get that chance to experience it…

D: Dude, snowboarding is turning! As soon as you get good at turning at the resort, it’s so fun.

J: Okay, okay… You’re getting me wrong. I mean, snowboarding is snowboarding. But the epitome of snowboarding is riding powder. That’s where it’s at.

D: Yeah, powder is amazing. It feels soooo smooth!

J: What sucks is you can’t do it every day. That’s the problem.

D: It’s like you said, it doesn’t matter where you grew up, you can’t say that “this” is less snowboarding than “this.” You could grow up and ride only groomers and turn, and that’s just as much snowboarding as anything else. It’s all about that feeling of getting good turns; you just have one thing that’s really fun for you and you feel really good on your board. That’s snowboarding.

Bode Merrill

Do you guys think you’re gonna keep hitting street spots for a while, or are you gonna move on to powder all the time?

J: Shit, I don’t know. I do know that when the filming thing is done, I will be riding powder only.

D: I love riding powder, man. I’d switch over, but I don’t know if it would translate!

J: Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy filming street and going out and doing all that stuff, but I love to do pow turns—which no one really care to see me do, haha! But I can’t do that every day and still snowboard as a job… My other problem is I don’t think it’s fun to ride powder and then stop to shoot photos or film it. To me, powder is meant to just be ridden. I don’t like to stop; I just want to meet at the bottom and be like, “That was sick!” and that’s it. I don’t want to document it because it never looks as cool as it really was.

D: I don’t think I’ll ever stop riding rails. I mean, obviously one day I will, but I could definitely make a switch and ride pow for a year or something.

J: No way you will be fifty-five and doing a nose press on a rail someday! Hahaha, I guarantee that.

D: I think that would be sweet! I’d love to do that.

Watch Danimals and Jake OE rip together in this edit from 2012, filmed for SNOWBOARDER Mag's 12 Days of Christmas series. Filmed at Hyland

I can’t wait to see a fifty-five-year old Danimals do a nose press!

D: Dude, I like the idea of just riding powder, though. Take like a year and just ride pow! That would be a nice little break from rails.

J: It’s easy to say that, though, because it’s all we do, right? I think we would miss hitting the streets.

Do you guys feel that for lack of a better term, “urban” snowboarding has been kinda going in two different directions? You have people building huge setups with big jumps and landings, going off roofs, and winching around, and then there are other people really working on their trick/spot selections and filming lines.

D: I’ve never really thought about that, but yeah, I feel like it’s more about trends. It feels like back in the day there were some guys hitting some pretty big shit, and then it kinda switched to smaller, more technical spots, and more tricks. And now I feel like some guys are hitting really big shit again. Or maybe both have been there the whole time; it’s what you see, I guess.

J: I think people have gotten so good at snowboarding and there are so many people hitting the streets that it is splitting. People are picking paths and are gonna go big and do big builds, or are gonna go raw, do lines, and less builds… I like them both, but it’s for sure splitting—there’s no way you can say that Cale Zima and Dan Brisse ride similarly, but they both ride the streets and I think they’re both super awesome. I think it’s a good thing—I like seeing the big shit once or twice in a part, actually. But every day I like to watch the raw stuff, because it’s more inspiring me.

Okay, moving on. Jake, what kind of training regimen do you follow in order to get ready for the winter?

J: Zero training…or else I’d be better at snowboarding. Hahaha! I’m pretty sure that’s true. Fishing, I guess—I love fishing. I have an ice shack; it’s an old trailer that you can bring on to the ice and there’s a hole on the floor that you can ice fish in. For me, it’s more about just hanging out than actually catching fish! Lots of the time I don’t even care about the fishing; you drill the holes (which sucks and is a lot of work) and then you make it warm inside and everyone hangs out. It’s just fun.

Weren’t you saying your ice shack got stolen this winter? Who stole it?

J: Yeah, the guy I bought it from stole it. I had my registration posted on the other side of the shack. He got a $10 ticket because I erased his registration that was posted on the front side, so he came and stole it, but three days later he returned it. It was a big nightmare. Actually this thing adds a lot of stress to the winter. But anyways, the other thing that really sucked is that the day after it got stolen my girlfriend went and bought me another one.

Bode Merrill

Danimals. Minneapolis, MN

Are you kidding me?

J: I put a lot of work into it and I was super-proud of it. And when that happened, she saw I was upset and it was my birthday at the same time, so she found one that she could buy, one that’s actually nicer than the other one! So I’m gonna sell the other one.

So did you guys grow up with older siblings?

J: Yeah, I did.

That would explain your competitiveness, eh? I noticed recently you’ve been wanting to wrestle everyone. You also tend to be sitting shotgun in cars all the time.

J: I try not to, but maybe naturally… I guess?

So are you a middle child, then?

J: No, I’m adopted…thanks for bringing it up! Nah, I’m the youngest.

Ah, you’re the baby! Kinda makes sense.

J: Fuck!

What about you, Dan?

D: I have a younger sister, so that makes me the older brother, I guess, and I never had the older brother rivalry. A lot of times you can tell which of your friends have older brothers because they’re kinda competitive and they did that when they were younger with their brother.

So being an older brother to a sister, does that give you confidence with girls?

D: I stay away from girls, hahaha! I don’t know anything about girls. I wish I knew… I’d say the best is to just don’t even worry about them—let them come to you!

Would you say that girls go after redheads?

D: Probably not…I don’t know. They tend to compliment you on your red hair, so maybe there’s some I guess. Not much for me, hahaha. When my hair is really long, though, I think some girls maybe like that, because you have long red hair and that’s different. But I think maybe then they realize I’m dirty and stay away.

Okay, so when you have longer red hair and you meet someone for the first time and you explain that you are a snowboarder…how many times would that person ask you about Shaun White? Do they tell you that you look like him?

D: EVERY time. They ask me if I know him, or if I’ve ever met him. “Oh, you look like that “Flying Tomato” guy!” I think it’s funny. People even ask me if I’m him; I’ve had people ask me if I’m Shaun White on planes and stuff.

Did you ever get made fun of because you had red hair when you were a kid?

D: No, not that I can remember—I guess I had cool friends. Maybe they should’ve every now and then; I guess I’d be a little bit harder now.

Lastly, Jake, what kind of music are you into?

J: Big fat black women—I love it. Soul music!

So when you do a mix tape, what are the requirements?

J: I’d say about 80% big fat black women and then two or three hardcore rap songs. And maybe some Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews Band. Hahahaha!