Victor Daviet Launches Snowboarders of Solidarity to Help Afghan Refugees

In late November, French phenom Victor Daviet put out a call to action on his Instagram to help a group of Afghan refugees who had fled their home country to escape persecution for snowboarding. For years, Victor has used his riding as a fulcrum to help others through initiatives like Safety Shred Days and Riders for Refugees. When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, Victor saw an urgent need to help Afghan snowboarders he had met a year prior who were now in danger–just because they snowboard. Under the Taliban regime, participating in sport is not allowed and the act of snowboarding puts these individuals’ lives in danger. It was imperative that they flee the country. In order to help these men and women assimilate into new lives in other countries, Victor founded Snowboarders of Solidarity, a non-profit that aims to help snowboarders who have had to leave politically unsafe countries rebuild their lives using snowboarding as a way to to integrate and build community. Currently, SOS has a GoFundMe to help this group of Afghan refugees settle in new countries and is looking for more help from snowboarders all over the world. We checked in with Victor to learn about Snowboarders of Solidarity. – Mary T. Walsh

Victor, you traveled to Pakistan last year and that is where you met a few of the Afghan snowboarders that you are striving to help now. Can you tell us a little about that experience?
Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan for a snowboard trip with @zomconnection (another non-profit association that’s developing winter sports in Pakistan, including snowboarding). There in Pakistan, I had the pleasure to meet members of the Afghan snowboard scene. We spent a week together, sharing fun times on and off the mountain. Every night, we would drink tea and talk about snowboarding and our respective lives. I was really curious and had some great talks. We all became good friends. So much so, that we were planning a snowboard trip to Afghanistan for my snowboard video series, Trip Roulette, with them as guests for winter 2022.

What is the snowboarding scene like in Pakistan/Afghanistan from what you have learned?
Both countries have a decent amount of snow every winters and great mountains–especially in Pakistan, they have giant mountains that are mostly famous for alpinism. While they have snow and mountains, winter sports are not part of their cultures, and the result is that they have only two resorts and a total of three lifts in Pakistan (really small ones compared to the size of their mountains) and none in Afghanistan. Pakistan, with the actions of Zom Connection over the past couple years, has probably now a couple hundreds of snowboarders within the 226 million people living in the country and a bit of gear. The people and are really enthusiastic about the idea of developing winter sports!

Afghanistan is a different story. From what the riders told me, they are around thirty riders and have only twenty boards in total in the country. They were riding next to the roads on some passes and were hiking, only (some riders that I met in Pakistan were taking a lift for the first time). Even if the boarders were super motivated to grow the snowboarding culture in their country, now since the Taliban has taken possession of the country, it’s an old story: their religion does not allowed sport activities and they are very strict about it.

Reading the words of the individuals on the GoFundMe page, it sounds like snowboarding in Afghanistan is an act of rebellion on a much bigger scale than in other countries (of course, especially for the women)?
We have to understand that the snowboarders in Afghanistan have a progressive and modern approach compared to the religions and ethics established in the country. For the women especially, standing on a board and studying makes them true activists for women’s rights in the country. Now that the Taliban has taken over the country, snowboarding is clearly seen as an act of rebellion in their current religious and political climate. These individuals had no other choice than to leave.

How did the creation of Snowboarders of Solidarity come about? You both were already involved in Riders for Refugees as well, which was helping those in need in an adjacent way.
After having helped them to leave their home country, those snowboarders had pretty much nothing left except freedom and sadness from leaving everything behind. Seeing this, we wanted to bring them a bit of comfort and happiness through snowboarding and its community. So, we decided to create SOS to help, with our capabilities, the snowboard refugees.

How are you hoping to help through SOS?
The current priority of SOS is focused on young Afghan snowboarders who are now refugees in foreign countries. We work to bring them a network for social integration and make friends through snowboarding by connecting them with local riders, events, and associations. Learning new languages, continuing their studies, and pursuing a career are also key to their new life. We also work on finding them snowboard gear and access to resorts to be able to train and keep their sport dream alive.

The team behind Snowboarders of Solidarity, including Victor, top left.

How can readers help out with your efforts?
First, if some of the Afghan snowboarders are in your country, we would appreciate if you could open your arm and welcome them in your our groups. Then if you have time, skills, or contacts relating to emigration policies or any other useful abilities, you are more than welcome to join the association crew. And last but not least, if you feel like contributing to our crowdfunding to help these snowboarders to integrate their new lives, that would be amazing!

Snowboarding is a pretty incredible thing when it is leveraged to be able to help people in a way greater than merely the act of riding. Why is this important to you both and how do acts of community like this resonate with you each personally?

With have seen over the past years that the snowboard community is really open minded and has strong links between all riders around that passion. We have also compassion, so if we were in their situation as kids, we would be so grateful to receive any help. We can’t even imagine the hard times they are going through, leaving their homes, family, their past–because they snowboarded ! So helping those passionate snowboarders (like us) that are also part of the community just felt natural and we know that the whole snowboard community is thinking the same way.

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