For athlete David Djité snowboarding is more than just a sport; it’s a way of life. Since he was three years old, he and his snowboard have been inseparable. Whether hitting kickers in the park or picking a line through the trees in the backcountry of his home resort, Laax in Switzerland, snowboarding gives him the freedom to express himself, to feel grateful and humble towards nature. But in 2015, he was involved in a serious accident that nearly cost him his life and it changed his relationship with snowboarding.
‘The first three months after the accident were a physical and psychological rollercoaster,’ David explains. On a snowboarding trip to Finland, David caught an edge after landing a trick in the park. In the initial aftermath, he thought he’d got away lightly, with just a few broken ribs. But it turned out he had serious internal injuries and needed emergency surgery. After a few weeks in a Finnish hospital, he returned to his home in Zurich and started contemplating his future relationship with snowboarding.
‘At first, I felt an extreme amount of aversion and regret towards snowboarding and never wanted to have anything to do with it again. But over time I realised why I love snowboarding. I now try to express myself and my thoughts much more with snowboarding. I see it as an art form, where I’m the artist not the athlete.’
This artistic side comes through in his video projects, not just the way he rides. Last season he was able to realise a long-held dream of producing his own film project, titled Betty Ford, a beautifully shot ‘ode to snowboarding’ that makes you want to go out and ride your nearest snow-covered mountain asap. And he has big plans – with bigger mountains – in his sights too, with Alaska being his ultimate dream snowboarding destination.
But his accident – and his age – has given him wisdom and perspective. He’s now a rider that doesn’t just want to explore what’s ‘out there’, but also what’s in his own head. ‘I think exploration of the self is what we all need to explore more in the future. We need to ask ourselves: what do I like, what don’t I like? What do I want to be and how can I achieve it? If we all think like this, we’ll automatically discover new places and ways to explore, too.’
He’d also like to see more inclusion in snowboarding. As one of the few faces of colour on the snowboard scene in Europe he is a reminder that the industry needs to do more to welcome minorities into the mountains. He believes everyone should be welcome in the mountains, not just the privileged. Through his creative riding and filming, he is bringing new focus to this issue, which we hope will inspire overdue change.
But above all, he wants to have fun. Like many professional athletes, he tended to put too much pressure on himself. But now his focus has sharpened on gratitude. ‘Snowboarding has shaped me as a person and made me who I am today. When I ride, I forget my problems and just feel free.’