Camaraderie. Summertime. Propulsion. Activism. Jumping in the water, the river feeling amazing, what an incredible way to start the day, why wait until after lunch to plunge into a river? That’s how we start our day.
On a morning with stronger currents you’re reminded our river has tidal influence from the Pacific Ocean, 100 miles away. The current is never threatening but its pull sometimes surprises as your rhythmic spirit takes over and subconscious choices are made in carving your path across the river. Our swim does not have chlorine, lap lanes, or flip turns.
Reaching the shores of downtown we slowly collect and rest a moment, then count off to be sure everyone made it across. Looking around you notice the eclectic collection of heads and shoulders wading in the water. We all have stories, are individuals, yet are all united by our love for our river and our green River Hugger swim caps.
As summer proceeds you realize you have become familiar with a lot of these people. Is this what community feels like?
You stop mid-way back across and take it all in. The bridges, downtown, the kinetic-ness of the human swimming pod, the movement of the water. Swimming so closely to others, sometimes you imagine we are a bind of migrating salmon. Throughout the summer the sun changes position as the days shorten. Mid-August the sun shines right in your eyes at the horizon as you swim east. If you play it just right you can steer directly behind a Hawthorne Bridge piling to eclipse the bright, late summer sun.
You savor the swim as you climb out of the river, exhilarated, adrenalized and satiated from completing a half mile swim. In the height of summer you are lost in the sublime, never thinking about the end. But too quickly our season ends, like our season started, darker mornings, cooler temperatures. Frequently it is hard to get out of bed and going in the summer – we are in the river at 7:00 a.m. Laying in bed, more than once, I have thought maybe it’s best to linger, rest, and miss a morning swim. But you do make it, and plunge in, and realize, somehow, you forgot, how incredible, it ALWAYS feels, to be buoyant and immersed in our Willamette River. You’re overtaken by a rush and a smile, and kick into gear.
Swimming a lap takes on a whole new meaning with the Human Access Project River Hugger’s Swim Team. River Huggers is a group of early risers who together swim a lap across the Willamette River and back before work. The group’s goal is to swim together as a pod and create public awareness that it is safe to swim in the Willamette River. It takes about 40 minutes to swim across to the west side and back, a quarter mile each direction. The swim is for intermediate level swimmers and above. Safety paddlers will accompany the group to ensure safety. Each swim costs $3 to participate or you can pay $50 for the season. Swim caps cost $15 and include your first swim. For more information, visit www.humanaccessproject.com.
The Big Float is a celebration of our city’s river and a benefit for the Human Access Project. The goal is to get people to embrace the Willamette River and to advocate for public beaches and better human access to our downtown waterway. In addition, we support our river’s preservation and healthy development as a public resource. Join the flotilla! If you register by July 5, the cost is only $5 for adults, after that it’s $10. Discounted pricing is available for kids under 18. For more information, visit www.thebigfloat.com. See tentative schedule below.
The Big Float SEVEN
What: Group inner-tube float and beach party on the Willamette River.
Date: July 15, 2017 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Tom McCall Bowl in Waterfront Park (Southwest Columbia and Naito).
Cost: Adult $5 before July 5, $10 after. Discounted pricing for kids under 18.
You must provide your own innertube and life jacket. Life jackets are available through online registration or on location for $9.
8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Beach Bash and Clean Up, participants receive free entry to The Big Float.
11:00 a.m. On site registration begins, pre-ticket purchase entry begins
1:30 p.m. First Inner Tube parade (meetup at the bottom of the bowl )
2:00 to 6:00 p.m. Mid Float Floating Barge with Portland PERK! Grove in your Tube!
2:15 to 6:30 p.m. Main Stage Barge Bands (to be announced) Three Bands!
3:00 p.m. Second Inner Tube parade (meetup at the bottom of the bowl)
4:30 p.m. Final Inner Tube parade (tentative, meetup at the bottom of the bowl)
7:00 p.m. Wrap
River Hugger Swim Team
What: Fun, river advocacy swim
Dates: June 15 to September 15 at 7 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 5:45 p.m. on Thursdays.
Cost: $3.00 per swim
Meet: Fire Station 21, 05 S.E. Madison St.