HAPpy People - Dave Hayden

October 8, 2017

Meet River Hugger and intrepid open water swimmer, Dave Hayden, interviewed by Christina Malango. Dave is a father, swimmer, aerial dancer, and ______ (who knows what else).

Q:  What else belongs on this list of who you are and what you do?  


A:  Father, swimmer, yep! I’m really excited about getting to do both at the same time as Cora grows up, and I hope she comes to feel as much at home in the water as I do, if she chooses to. “Dancer" hasn’t quite made it into my self-concept yet but I guess that’s where I’m headed if I keep up with this nonsense. Let’s call it “aerial performer” for now, since I’ve got one student performance under my belt. (It was really fun! I.. did not expect that!).

For the fill-in-the-blank in your question I'll go with “mad scientist”. I’ve been dorking around with computers and techy stuff all my life and I love figuring out how to make things work--or at least, figuring out why they don’t. My day job is making computers do the things we want them to even though they’d rather not.


Q: Your summer included LONG open water swims. It seemed like you were getting many hours in the water in the mornings.  What’s your usual routine?


A:  Really? I feel like I swam less this summer than I have in years! I’d hoped to join a relay team in the Portland Bridge Swim to motivate me to get more training in but they filled up before I had a chance. So instead of doing the insane 2-hour-plus swims with the bridge swimmers I’d try to get down to the dock early once a week and go up to Burnside and back before the River Huggers swim. I’ve really enjoyed the contrast of the quiet solitude of the water at sunrise, first light of the day shimmering on the water in front of me, followed by the wonderful togetherness of our ritual swim across the river and back.


Q:  How did you find swimming? Or did it find you? Have you always been a swimmer?


A:  Always been, as far as I can remember. I have vague memories of swim classes when I was 3 or 4, but mostly going for ice cream afterwards. When we moved to Austin, age 5, I was signed up for the neighborhood swim team and spent every next summer doing morning practice. Most of the days were spent at the pool as well because Texas can get a little warm in the summer. Then I did swim team in high school, and then.. I guess it was force of habit. If I didn’t swim enough I didn’t feel like myself.


Q:  Do you have a favorite swim?  Which swim did you enjoy the most this summer?


A:  I’ve fallen in love with the shadows of the trusses under the Burnside Bridge at sunrise, so it was lovely seeing them again this year. But that's last year’s favorite, really. I’ll call the first Duckworth Dock splash mob as my favorite swim of this year. It had a little transgressive thrill, and then when we got in the water it was so completely obvious it was the right thing to do, the place and time was just perfect. It felt like something we’d be talking about years from now when the Duckworth is Portland’s famous urban swimming hole.


Q:  Do you have a dream swim you'd love to do some day?


A:  Swimming the Bosphorus would be pretty cool! And I’d love to swim out to Molokini, to spite the tour company that didn’t bother to tell us how to find the boat for the snorkel trip we paid for, almost 20 years ago and I’m still bitter about it. I think I’m done with marathon size swims, though—I can’t imagine having the time to train these days. Doing the entire 10.6 mile bridge swim was a dream that came true (if a lot slower than I'd hoped) so I’m pretty content with that.


Q:  What do you think about when you swim?


A:  I usually start out thinking about whatever project I’m working on but it doesn’t last long before coherent thought flitters away. If I’m lucky I wind up in Zen brain instead of “Why am I not still in bed right now?"


Q:  Why do "straps class"?  What attracts you to the air? The water? The earth?


A:  Oof. Straps. Aerial straps is total masochism but a great workout. The first year my arms were covered in bruises. What has me hooked is every once in a while I discover I can do something I’ve never been able to do before, something I’d given up on as impossible. I’m just now starting to feel fluent in the air in the way I’ve always felt fluent in water, where motion is natural and subconscious. And what attracts me to the earth? Gravity! (zing!)


Q:  Do you swim in the winter? When/how/where?


A:  Not since Cora was born, unfortunately. I used to swim at Reed College (I call it my $100,000 Gym Membership) but getting there, swimming a mile or two, then getting home takes more time than I can spare these days. I definitely miss it. There’s a bliss in simply moving through water that has no comparison.


Q:  Does little Corazon have any thoughts about your swimming? 


A:  She’s big enough now she can see out the window in the car, so for a while when she saw the river she’d say “you swam there!” (Because I’m shamefully proud and every time we saw the river I’d say “I swam there!”) But now she says “I swam in that river!”, too.

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