In New Zealand at the 2013 WRC Open Women’s category, Belgium will be represented by the team with the most original team name: Waterproof Rafting Team. Very shortly after it came into existence this team name put Belgium into the center of attention of world rafting . Most notably by winning the R4 European Champions in 2012. Of course, from the very beginning, these beautiful girls attracted the attention of both male and female rafters, because they first of all, more than any other team in the rafting scene, were committed to promoting the sport of rafting and themselves in it.
Not so long ago Marleen Koninckx started looking for ladies to join this adventurous madness because the Dutch women’s team asked her to. She liked the sport and wanted to share the experience, which encouraged her to look for other female thrill-seekers. Through various ways, she met other sporting women who wanted to join the rafting team and so Waterproof saw the light in 2010. Now Marleen Koninckx, Lore Walravens, Carolien Van Eycken, Stefanie Leys, Nina Hanssen, Jenny Geers, Marlies Van den Berge and Ann Clauwaert have the honour to defend the colours of Belgium in New Zealand.
Most of the team members started rafting at the same time and have been Waterproof members since 2009. Jenny, on the other hand, joined the team a bit later and Ann has been part of the team for one year. They started at the Euro Champs in Italy 2010, which was their first real slalom. “Funnily enough, we hadn’t really seen any slalom gates before.” – says Lore Walravens who introducsd us to the team and who will answer some questions in order for usto know them better.
Lore – we can say that you surprised many in the Czech Republic at the R4 Euro Champs 2012, what can you tell us about that victory against the very strong competition?
“Our victory was unexpected. Our goal was to get one medal at the ECh. When we got a medal for H2H, we already felt like partying. Every time we did well, we were all incredibly happy. During the competition we had decided to put all our energy mainly in R4, since we were participating in R4 and R6. We were hoping for a place on stage with the downriver part, but winning the gold medal, exceeded our dreams. That was absolutely fantastic. Because of this success we decided to participate in the WRC in New Zealand. If we hadn’t done so well in the ECh, I guess we might not have gone to this important competition.”
This year you won the award as the best team in your country, a Diamond – congratulations. How do you motivate yourselves for rafting?
“We enjoy rafting in as many places as possible. This means that Euro Cups and other competitions in our neighbour countries are very important to us. Not only as an achievement, but also as a means to train and practice. Since we are the only female raft team, there is no competition in Belgium and we have to look for a challenge in other countries. Our team is fond of going to other places and it is looked upon as a good training for competitions. As a result our team bonds more and we also improve our contacts within the rafting sport world. The atmosphere between the various rafting teams is super. We are all competitive on the water, but afterwards there is no hostility. On contrary we help each other with improving skills etc.
One of our goals is to promote the rafting sport in Belgium and to make sure that more people will try out rafting.”
The first time they raced at a WRC was in the Netherlands 2010. Now the challenge awaits them in New Zealand. Marleen and Carolien have already been to New Zealand, for the rest of the team this will be an amazing, new experience.
How has your team been preparing for the WRC and on which rivers?
“Three times a week we train together in the boat. A major obstacle is that we often have to train on calm rivers, since we have no wild water ones in Belgium. This means we have to go abroad (Germany, Austria, Italy, France, … ) regularly to train on more ‘natural’ rivers. Another option is training at Dutch Water Dreams in Zoetermeer (NL). They have an artificial wild water river on which we can train. Needless to say that we frequent this place quite often, at least once a week. Besides the water drills, we have been coached for stabilization training at DuofiTT and of course we also work on our endurance through running drills.”
Do you have any expectations related to the result…. and what are your expectations generally?
“Of course we hope to do well. We want to be satisfied with the results we will get. If we managed to be in the top five, it would be fantastic, but then again we have to wait and see. Not everything is within our control; we will try our best and see what happens.”
Which discipline is your team’s favourite?
“We prefer slalom, because this is the most technical part and it is always such a big challenge. You have to be incredibly precise and everyone has to be on top of it to get the necessary results. You can only be good at slalom if you really work as a team. You know what they say, there’s no I in team.”
What are your first impressions of New Zealand? Have you been on any of the rivers on which you will compete?
“There are only 3 member (Marleen – Marlies – Stefanie) in New Zealand for the moment… A 4th one will be there by the end of the week. I still have to work, so I couldn’t go earlier. The combination of a full time job with rafting… is hard!
Marleen, Marlies and Stefanie are having some difficulties with our raft. We sent our raft weeks ago to NZ, but it hadn’t arrived yet… We hope to see our boat soon, so they can start exploring the rivers! (I hear it has arrived now.)
For now… they are enjoying the beautiful nature of Auckland and they have already visited the sandy beaches.“
Will you be able to stay after the competitions?
“Some of us can only stay a few days, whereas others can stay for 10 days or longer. We will all try to get some impressions of the country. During the rest days, we will try and see some sites nearby and a few members will even visit the southern part after the championship.”
You are very committed to the promotion of the club, collecting money for the competitions, training, equipment, and it seems to have been successful.
“As you know, we have no white water in Belgium… so for most of the Belgians this sport is unknown! (They only know it from doing it on holiday as a tourist and we all know the difference between tourist rafting and competition rafting is big!) For us, it’s the most beautiful sport in the world. We are not an Olympic sport, so to get some support from the government, that’s impossible.
But we want to show people our sport and our enthusiasm So every year we organise something to raise money to support us: a nude calender, selling wine, organising a spaghetti day, organising a friends day on the river. It’s also a day to learn more about us and about the sport. In this way we want to stimulate people to try or sport. It would be great to have more teams in our own country. We all have a sport background (also in our studies), I think we are born to motivate other people to do some sport :-) and if they have to chose a sport, well they better pick an awesome one!
The support we had from teams like Germany, Italy, Holland during the years is incredible. They know we all live in different places in Belgium (we have to travel a lot to even train in our own country) , we give up everything to train together and that we are completely devoted to rafting to be better every year! We made a lot of friends for life in those countries! The appreciation of other teams makes it beautiful. They really know what we have to do to achieve this. That motivates us to train harder every day!“
“Advice: never give up! Even if it’s hard sometimes :-)”
“Because of Aquadesign, Arend and Arjan Bloem, and Teva we can raft with good materials and good equipment. We are very grateful for that. Furthermore we would like to thank Cronos and bank De Groof for the financial support. During our training we could count on Dutch Water Dreams and wildwaterschool.nl. They advised/helped us and made sure we had good training possibilities. We would also like to thank our Federation, VKKF, that wants to put the rafting sport in the spotlight. Every month an article is published to promote the rafting sport in Belgium.” – which is commendable and an example to others. – “Last but not least, we thank optician Van Eycken, P&M consulting and Mobitech for their support since the beginning.”
From the time I started writing for the IRF I wanted to do an interview with this team. I could not ask them all I wanted to, I’ll do it another time ;) But their enthusiasm and love for rafting simply attracts and motivates others, even me. They work hard all year, which is what I also like in this team, nothing they do just falls from the sky. They work hard at marketing and representing rafting as a sport at the same time trying to find sponsors. Do not forget also that this country has no natural resources for this sport, but that proves once again that when you love something you will find a way to do so. Wish you all the best in NZ!