Bever and Filles de la Rouge making waves

Andrea Bever
Karen Lacombe

At the beginning of 2009, the only time Andrea Bever had ever rafted was during Frosh. Two years later, she became a Pan American Rafting Champion after winning the gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Brazil with her team, the Filles de la Rouge.

The Filles de la Rouge are one of the world’s best women’s rafting teams. They have won two consecutive Pan American Championships and received silver medals in the last two Canadian Championships. This year the team consists of six members: Captian Majorie Bourbeau, Marilou Salette, McGill alumni Diana Taneva, Stefanie McArdle, Karine Corriveau, and Andrea Bever. Just as incredible as the team’s success is Bever’s story of joining it.

Two years ago Bever never thought she would be a member of the Filles de la Rouge. In 2009 she applied to be a rafting guide on the Rouge River for the summer but didn’t expect to get the job.

“I just wanted to do something different for the summer and didn’t know what. I was looking into everything and applied to everything I could find on CaPS [McGill Career Planning Service],” said Bever. “I was surprised that they called me.”

After getting the call, Bever travelled to the Rouge River to complete her training. She quickly realized that she was getting into something far more intense than she had previously thought—she was rafting in freezing April waters and going down some serious rapids.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “My first weekend there I thought I was going to die. [But I kept doing it] because of my pride and because [my friends] made so much fun of me when they found out I was going [I couldn’t stop].”

That summer she met and began to paddle with the Filles de la Rouge. While she was working as a guide, the team needed a spare paddler and invited Bever to raft with them.

That summer the Filles had planned to travel to Sonamarg, India and compete in the Kashmir Cup. However it was a period of transition for the team with only two members of the team remaining and Bever was asked to join the squad. Bourbeau, Salette, Taneva and Bever are the only members of the current team to have made the trip to India. The Kashmir Cup was a learning experience for Bever as she had never raced competitively before.

“I’d trained two or three times before I went to India so it was completely new to me,” Bever said. “I had never done a slalom course before so the first slalom course I did was in India.”

The Filles de la Rouge finshed second in the Kashmir Cup and Bever began to train with the team. During the season they train three times a week on both flat water and on rapids.

Last summer the team traveled to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil to compete in the Pan American Championships. The championships are held biannually and the Filles de la Rouge entered as the defending champions. However, since their previous victory, two years earlier, there were some new members on the team.

“We didn’t really know what would happen because we were a new group of girls and it was one of our first times racing together,” said Bever. “Winning was our goal because we were defending our championship but we didn’t know what would happen.”

In a competition there are four events; the Time Trial, the Sprint, the Slalom and the Downriver. Each event is different in length and technique, and worth a certain amount of points. The team that accumulates the most points in each of the events wins the championship.

In Brazil, the Filles de la Rouge entered the final event, the Downriver, barely trailing a team from Costa Rica. Bever had sat out the first three events but was in the boat for the deciding Downriver race.

“Since we went into the Downriver in second place we knew we had to get first if we were going to win,” said Bever. “That was a lot of stress because I was doing the Down river and hadn’t done the other events.”

With Bever in the boat, the Filles jumped out to a quick start and led the entire way to win the gold.

“We got in front right in the beginning and we stayed in front,” she said. “It was so exciting.”

This season the Filles de la Rouge are hoping to build on their success from last year. They’re competing in and hoping to win the Ottawa Valley Rafting Championship, Canadian Rafting Championship, the European Cup in Finland, Gauley Festival in West Virginia and the Pre World Championship.

Moreover, they’re hosting the Rouge River Race on July 1. The race is a fundraiser for the team and is open to competitive and casual rafters. In addition to the four standard events there will also be a rodeo in which competitors are awarded for having the best flip and surf.

In the long term, Bever and the Filles de la Rouge are hoping to compete in the Olympics. Rafting isn’t an Olympic sport, but at each Olympics the host country is able to choose trial sports for their country’s games. In five years rafting may be an Olympic sport since Brazil is hosting the 2016 Olympics and have the best men’s rafting team.

“We’re trying to get it to be an Olympic sport,” said Bever. “So our long term goal is to win an Olympic gold. I’m planning to raft for a long time. I want to [go to the Olympics] and I want to be there when it happens. Hopefully we’ll make it in.”

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