HAPpy People - Bret Winkler

August 4, 2021

Meet Bret Winkler, a River Hugger and ….


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

About 5 years. It's been long enough back that I remember swimming without an orange swim float. I learned about the group by word-of-mouth over dinner.  When I heard open water swimming in Portland, my ears perked right up, and I was compelled to ask follow up questions. The first was... "Where exactly do you swim in Portland??" 


Were you a swimmer as a kid?

I was most definitely a water baby. Growing up in Southern California, the beach was a regular activity as were the ever-present swimming pools. I swam on the local teams and even crossed over and trained as a springboard diver.  Springboards are my love, and I've been a springboard diving coach over the years. 


Where is your favorite place to swim?

My favorite place to swim is the different swimming holes outside Portland. You'll have to ask me my favorites. I have some rope swings, jumping spots, and nice, deep clear river spots that I love to make a day out of swimming in.  


One lap or two in the Hugger swims?

Most of my time, I've been a 1-lapper (I blame work). However, in this new era of video meetings, I find I can make 2 laps happen more often. The 2nd lap makes waking up early all the more worthwhile.


What do you think about when you swim?

Funny thing is I think about very little while I swim. Maybe that's why I like it...I can switch off my monkey brain. I watch bubbles float by and observe my form. I get very nerdy and analytical about my swim stroke. Lately, I've also been thinking about my shoulder and making sure that it stays happy and un-irritated


What are your hopes for the swimming scene on the Willamette? 

My dream for the Willamette is people hanging out everywhere with floating swim pods that have diving boards.  


Do you have a dream destination swim you’d like to do someday? 

I think I have already experienced that. It is hard for me to imagine anything beating the good memories I have of exploring the desert canyon streams in Southern California as a teenager. Exploring in this case means making a day of hiking upriver and swimming across waterfall plunge pools and climbing up rocks to get to the next secluded section of the stream. Lots of swimming and rock jumping with that, so it has all the bits that I love.   


What do you do IRL and what do you enjoy about it?

In real life, I'm a dad of 2 daughters. I work as a civil engineer and have any number of water engineering concepts embedded in my brain. I can look at any pretty water scene and put it into mathematical terms. It makes me appreciate how wonderful water is. Since I work for the city's Bureau of Environmental Services, I get to see first hand all the hard work put into the river by city staff and community members. What I enjoy about my work is that there is never a perfect answer and you sometimes have to think creatively to find solutions.  That applies to engineering AND parenting.  ;) 

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