HAPpy People - Christina Malango

May 29, 2018

So, Christina, what do you do in real life?
     I have my dream job!  I am an advice nurse in a women's clinic.  My coworkers are midwives and doulas working mostly with pregnant women.

How long have you been swimming with the River Huggers?
     Willie wrote an article for my neighborhood newspaper explaining what HAP is and inviting people to swim with the River Huggers.  It sounded quirky and fun so I checked it out.  That was about 4 years ago, I think.  I happened to go on the day a blogger with National Geographic was there reporting on the group and I got in the photo.  What? Media exposure?  That's my idea of fun!  So I kept coming here and there but got more involved last summer and honestly the more time I spend with this group the more fun I have. 

What appeals to you about HAP?
    There is nothing better than a city with a river running through it and I have always loved that about Portland.  Seeing people become bolder and more comfortable swimming in the Willamette, seeing the truth about improved water quality spread, and experiencing the incremental improvements in access to the river (through Poet's Beach and our rogue activities at the Duckworth Dock last summer) all brings me much joy.  I enjoy the combination of fun, fitness, creativity, silliness, lobbying, policy making and influencing local and national culture around human interaction with rivers.  It's one of the few places someone can be involved in an organization on so many varied levels.  And we ARE in the spotlight for what we do.  That part of having your finger on the pulse of the swimming zeitgeist appeals to the part of me that always wants to be hip.

What do you think about when you swim?
   I often pray when I swim.  Not just to make it to the other side but being in water for me is being in union with the sacred.  I pray to help heal the water and for the water to help heal me.  I think the love and energy we bring to the Willamette helps heal that sorely misused waterway.  And, like all good swimmers who have worked with a coach I think about form and drafting too.  I love to stop under the Hawthorne bridge and feel the energy of the city ramping up.  It's a thrill to start my day in my river.  

You are known for always being willing to costume up for RH events, represent for the media and volunteer for things.  What gives? 
    I am a shameless goofball.  I grew up in a theater family, watching rehearsal or playing in the costume room while my dad directed high school theater and my mom wrote plays.  I was always shy about standing out until I got old enough to realize it doesn't matter.  I've met so many great people through HAP and whether it's costumed for The Big Float or in the buff for The Naked Goddess Swim I don't want to miss out on any of the fun. 

What are your hopes for the Willamette?
    I would love to see the East side of the river develop into the swimming and non motorized hub that's been envisioned.  I want to see floating platforms and saunas.  I really want showers to rinse off in when we get out.  With some smart choices swim tourism could be a big thing here.  Imagine a trip to the river to swim followed by a rinse off and dinner at some of the best restaurants in the area!

What has been your favorite swim so far?
    My most memorable was a blood moon swim to the Tillikum bridge and back where the tide was crazy.  That swim helped me know if I ever capsize in a boat in the sea I am likely to survive. Also, the float we did for the solar eclipse was a hoot.

What is your dream swim?
    I would love to do a multi day Mediterranean swim tour at some point. 


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