In snowboarding, the line between professional and amateur is blurry at best. While there is a stark contrast between the highest echelon of accomplished individuals and the on-flow regional ranks, between the two extremes the strata of sponsored riders inhabit a dubious arena. Ams win major contests, film season-defining full parts, turn heads on social media and offer up NBDs and WTFs, provoking an abundance of speculation on whether a rider has put in the time and risen through the ranks to be dubbed a “pro.” It doesn’t help that the jump from amateur to professional is often met without external fanfare. In skateboarding, the definition is cleaner: turning pro is a big deal and it’s the overall consensus that a skateboarder’s board company knows when the time is right to award a pro model. Your name on the bottom of a deck: you’re official. But for those who choose bindings over trucks, pro models aren’t as prevalent in the marketplace. Snowboard product doesn't work the same way. A line up change on a board company’s website is, at times, the defining moment. This August, Ride Snowboards decided to buck convention and make a spectacle where spectacle should be. Dan “Danimals” Liedahl, an archetype of the snowboarder who rides within the influential professional ranks, but was a #globalam, has officially turned pro. The kickback and celebration is important. SNOWBOARDER was along for the ride. - Mary Walsh

P: Danny Kern

P: Blatt

words: Aaron Blatt

Danimals, aka Dirt Bike Dan, aka Dan Liedahl is one of a kind. He’s insanely positive. Insanely. The kid is just having a good time. His is a simple life filled to the very brim with impromptu road trips, skate trips, motorcycle trips, and camp outs in the summer, and a winter program full of stacking clips and traveling with his friends. He’s the epitome of “the best guy to have in a crew” who is always the first to help out when someone needs some heavy shoveling to hit a spot, quick to push someone to keep working for a make, and just generally always in high spirits. He also happens to be an absolute savage on his snowboard. Be it -20 degree weather in the streets of deep northeast Canada, or blower pow up in the Alps, the kid is crushing it with a sure fire, genuine Midwest smile across his face. Danimals is completely at home with any crew; a certified king of all trades. Burning gas with Grenier on the sleds? Check. Teeing up hefty street spots with Jed? Check. Building massive jumps in the Dolomites with Pat Moore? Check. But best of all, you can find him cruising rope tow laps with his boys at Hyland Hills back in the Minnesota year after year. Danimals knows his home, and continues to pay respects, and ride for those roots in the Midwest.

When the boys at Ride Snowboards made the call to move Dan up to the pro team, it was almost as if that the entire industry breathed a fantastic sigh of relief. Darrell Mathes, who has been riding and traveling with Dan for many years said, “When I found out Dan was going to go pro, I was super psyched to hear it, and to be honest, I knew it was super long over due.”

P: Chris Moran

The way that the Seattle-based snowboard brand brought Dan up into the big leagues was just about as Danimals-style as it gets: a full on ambush of a surprise at Cobra Dogs that featured a grip of friends and snowboarding heavies hoisting specially-made, LE Danimals decks into the air, followed by a week of snowboarding, dirt biking, skating, camping, and partying surrounding the Videograss Signature Session at High Cascade. Because, what better way to usher Danimals into a pro status that he undoubtedly deserved, than to have all of his friends live life his way for the week?

“Turning pro is a next step. It’s an achievement and recognition for all the hard work you’ve been doing, the parts you’ve been putting out. Some companies don’t treat it with the respect it deserves, but it’s really a crowning achievement in a snowboard career. Danimals has been pro for a long time in a lot of people’s minds--it’s good to have it finally be official.” - Joey Sexton

Bode Merrill

P: Aaron Blatt

Bode Merrill

P: Tanner McCarty

P: Tanner McCarty

P: Tanner McCarty

“I think he was shocked at first. When we pulled up to Cobra Dogs he looked over at me and was like, “What’s going on?” I was like, “Get out the door and see for yourself.” With Dan, he doesn’t show crazy emotions, but you could tell that in his brain, he was super excited and it was a big honor for him to be pro with Ride. You don’t get those moments really often, but I guarantee that was one of his favorite moments he’s ever experienced.” - Darrell Mathes

“We spent a day watching The Washougal National Pro Moto, which is a stop on the Pro Motocross Championship Tour. Racers were completely covered in mud due to an early rain that morning, but Dan was able to find his favorite riders based on the sounds of their bikes and cheer on Ryan Dungey, a Minnesota native. Dan is pretty mellow dude when in board world, but watching the race got jacked up, waving his hands and yelling at his favorite pros as they pinned it past.

Naturally, Danimals spent the next day at the track, meticulously going through his bike, turning screws, and talking dirt conditions with the other motoheads before absolutely ripping the track a new one. Just as you would expect, the kid glides through the dirt with a casual feel, all while railing berms and getting the back tire up in the air while whipping out the tables. After finishing up his first moto he explained the difference between the Pacific Northwest track conditions and his hometown loop in Minnesota. “Back home the dirt isn’t like this, its way softer and you float through it, almost like you’re riding pow.” - Team Manager at Ride Snowboards, Tanner McCarty

“The kids want to be him, the riders want to go on trips with him, and the ladies want to marry him. If he can learn how to wake up earlier in the morning then there wouldn’t be a single complaint I could think of. Very proud of the kid.” – Tanner McCarty

P: Tanner McCarty

“He's pretty insane with everything he does, riding dirt bikes, riding skateboards, riding snowboards. He's a natural athlete. He's the realest, best ever. He’s got good style, good trick selection, best dude ever award, saving style from the whack shit!” - Chris Grenier

“It was pretty amazing to watch Dan go pro. We all knew it was coming and it was time. Seems like in snowboarding going pro is nothing more than an enhanced pay check and some social media blast. This was an actual celebration with a ton of strippers and friends on and off the team. The true American way for an all-American guy like Dan.” - Derrek Lever

P: Tanner McCarty

As the week progressed, the crew continued to cruise Danimals-style: skate trips to Hood River, hikes into the swimming holes surrounding Mount Hood, and finally a trip out to the coast to surf and camp. You can’t really do it better than this folks, and that’s the point. Dan’s got a good thing going, and seeing him so unbelievably happy to make this jump into the top tier of snowboarding, to be amongst so many of his heroes that have become his friends over the years, is something extraordinary. Turning Danimals pro wasn’t just putting “Dan Leidahl” under a different category on a company site and a bump in his pay check, it was a full scale celebration of Dan’s snowboarding career, and hot damn, we all can’t wait to see where he goes next.