“The river is a wonderful way to discover yourself”, Gaël Bellingham, rafting guide at Valcartier in 2012 (Quebec).
A promising ascent for those who descend the rivers
A few months ago, Gaël Bellingham – then an outdoor sciences student in the Gaspé – knew virtually nothing about rafting. A friend suggested the he become a rafting guide during the summer of 2012, which was a revelation to him, “It changed my life, I really fell in love with this activity.” To the point that while currently a student in the humanities, he surprised himself by considering making it his career. Dream? Utopia? Maybe not, to believe his real motivation and the distinction of being “1st rookie” taken on at the end of last summer by his employer, Mathieu Drouin, director of Rafting Valcartier.
Recruitment by natural selection
To apply for this job, it’s not necessary to turn up baggage in hand. “We provide training, which takes place on 5 weekends preceding the opening of the season in May. This professional training as a river guide, approved by Transports Canada, includes three courses (first aid, whitewater rescue, river guide) as well as fifteen rafting descents”, says Mathieu Drouin. “My training was very interesting and I learned a lot from the trainer, who had over 16 years of professional experience. But this is the stage at which natural selection begins: this job is not for everyone, and many drop out along the way”, admits Gaël.
Then comes the series of tests for candidates who have passed training with flying colours. Consisting of a theory test and three practical examinations, it assesses the technical skills of the young people, their competences in safety and their human dimension, “with real customers”, says Mathieu Drouin with amusement.
When thrills match real values
So that each descent is a memorable experience for its customers, Gaël takes the time to create an atmosphere so that the conditions on board are ideal, “I try to know what they do in life, if they’re a bit anxious about this adventure or completely excited to the point of wanting to learn how to guide the boat.” Once the ice has been broken, customers become liberated, to the great delight of our guide Gaël, “It’s a real satisfaction for me when I see them leave behind their stressful life completely, when they get to forget about work and their cell phone and have to manage, together, a moment of panic. It doesn’t happen very often in life!” Working as a rafting guide is also an opportunity and a chance to transmit his passion for nature, his wonder of the landscape and his knowledge of the river to the dozen people sharing the boat with him for half a day.