HAPpy People - Amanda Cross

March 28, 2021

By Christina Malango  
HAP Reporter, Part-Time Mermaid


Meet Amanda Cross, a River Hugger with Boundary Waters and beyond in mind for the future.


How long have you been swimming with the River Huggers and how did you find the group?

Gretchan Jackson and our friend Elaine told me they were going to swim across the Willamette on the opening day of the River Hugger season in 2015, and I think they felt compelled to invite me along when I got so excited hearing someone was going swimming.


Despite wanting to go, I was a total nerve-wreck my first time with River Huggers! Didn’t know if I’d make it across or get too tired, or how pushy the current would be (there are tides, what?!), and the bridge pylons seemed creepy like anything could be down there, or what gear to bring or where to put my stuff. It ended up being the best part of my day and I just kept coming back all season. I love getting paired up to swim along with first-timer River Huggers since I remember being new myself and I want them to have the best day, too. 



What’s your swimming background?

I swam a lot growing up, both on swim teams and just for fun. I think I thought being in water meant no one could see me, whereas ice rinks and soccer fields were like a stage. Being in Minnesota, we did a lot of swimming in lakes, too, but going outside the designated swim area was not a thing I realized could happen. Finding that open water had room for swimming in as many ways as there are swimmers made me want to be a swimmer again. 



What do you think about when you swim?

I think about all the same things as when I’m not swimming, it all just flows better and has a better ending. I like when I’m absorbed into the physicality of swimming though; my arms and hands pushing the water around and then relaxing on the return back above it, the rippling sounds going past my ears, the way the water tastes, the way my breathing feels, looking over and seeing everyone else breathing.



What are your hopes for the Willamette swimming scene?

I want to see ways and places to go swimming increase, and better see how access to swimming is based on a history of oppression, and how the scripts that resist equity need to be confronted here just like any other place. 



You’ve been to so many great lakes (ha! Get it?) and swim spots.  What have been your favorite swims?

Haha! Well I was thinking of which swim spots to say, and the list got longer and longer, and then I realized it wasn’t about the spots, but the people. I couldn’t bear to leave any person out. All the places are tied up with memories of who was with me, and right now especially when this past year has been so separated, I’m really holding on to all of them. 



You did a special out of state swim. Could you tell us about that?

Yes! Once Oregon taught me about open water swimming, the idea of going back and swimming in Lake Superior took hold. It’s a place I’d always been to, but not to swim. With swim friends Amelia and Stephanie, who also have ties there, we made an Oregon Wild Swimming appearance at the Point to La Pointe swim in 2019. Swimming it with them and having my family there joined my past and present and deepened the whole experience for me. 



Do you have an aspirational swim?

I'm looking forward to being able to travel again to go swimming. I'd like to go to the ocean. Ocean swimming is unfamiliar to me compared to other places I’ve swum, and the water moving in a bigger way is still kinda thrilling. And to the Boundary Waters! People are swimming it instead of canoeing it now.


Amanda Cross

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