HAPpy People - Adam Murray

November 4, 2016



Meet Adam Murray, HAP River Hugger and all-around interesting guy. Interviewed by Christina Malango.

How did you get involved with the River Huggers?

Rock climbing and bike trips used to be my jam, but I had a disabling accident in 2008 that effectively retired me from those sports. I found that swimming greatly improved my well being, but I could only manage a few pool lengths and I hated (hated) doing laps. I couldn't bring myself to swim more than once a week – the Yosemite climber in me craved adventure, not a grind. A year ago, I was in San Francisco, and my best friend took me swimming in Aquatic Park. The water was cold enough to burn my skin, but swimming under the open sky was exhilarating. I finally wanted to do this thing that was so good for me. That night, I got online and found River Huggers. I wasn't in shape for RH, but I returned to Portland motivated to do laps and get there.


You have your own special "look" when you are swimming--stripey trunks and swim socks--tell us the story of those socks!

Ha! Yeah... the friend who introduced me to open water swimming gave me those. I started the RH season wearing my mom's ancient wetsuit and the socks for extra warmth. I shed the wetsuit halfway through the season, but I kept the socks for a few swims, and yes, it was a... bold look. And why the colorful trunks? Cause blam! I gotta look as wild as the Willamette feels.


What do you do when you are not swimming?

Try to be a good dad to almost-one-year-old Tillie, write a lot, read obsessively, bake mean pizzas, tell my friends how great they are, and whip up self-directed bootcamps with my best friend.


What about that band you are in?  Do you see parallels between music and water?

Ghost Towns is a good excuse to wild out with some friends. The guys are tons of fun, and the songs have driving beats, relatable lyrics, unexpected instruments, and time signature tricks – there are a few on ghosttownspdx.bandcamp.com. I come from a classical violin background, so for me there's a parallel between focused violin practice and my current approach to swimming. The best way to get better is to break down big challenges (a Paganini caprice) into manageable chunks (troublesome shifts, double-stop passages, bow economy) and just wail on those mini-challenges until they're no longer challenging. As a fledgling swimmer, I leverage tips from fellow River Huggers and YouTube/GoSwim.tv breath/kick/stroke exercises to get better. It's working for me – in the past two years, I've gone from swimming out-of-breath 25-yard pool lengths to swimming 9,000 yards on the Columbia.


What do you think about when you are swimming?

I always wonder that about other swimmers! It depends. These days, I'm really focused on getting faster and more efficient, so I'm actively monitoring something or other – breathing, rotation, something like that. That takes up all my brain power, so I get a nice, clear, in-the-moment kind of non-thinking going. If I'm not in that mode, I'll sing songs (sometimes into the water) or mentally work on lyrics for a song I'm in the process of writing. It's hard to split focus while swimming, so I haven't done any terribly deep thinking in the water.


Do you have a favorite swim from this season?

If I had to pick just one, it would be mid-season – the first swim I did without a wetsuit. I was so scared... and surrounded by badass ladies who hadn't worn a wetsuit all season. But I did it, and I didn't look back. Pure fun.


Do you have a dream swim you would love to do?

Next summer marks twenty-five years of friendship with my bestie. Together, we've screwed up, we've survived our screwups, and we've grown up (just a little). I want to go back to San Francisco and mark our twenty-five years by swimming together from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge. It's about four times longer than the route from Alcatraz to shore, which it intersects. We made the plan back when swimming a mile was a huge accomplishment for me, so it seemed far-fetched. But I've kept swimming, thanks in part to RH, and now I know I can do it. It still feels crazy, though! Wish me luck?

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