HAPpy People - Stephanie Debner

January 19, 2017

Meet River Hugger, Stephanie Debner, interviewed by Christina Malango.


How did you discover the River Huggers and why do you love swimming with them?


I was introduced to the River Huggers by fellow River Hugger, Hilary. We swim at the same pool and she knew that I'd been swimming the Columbia channel crossing for a number of years, so she thought I'd like being a River Hugger. She was right!


You made it to almost every morning swim this summer.  Is it safe to assume you are a creature of habit?


Very much so! As soon as I start to take breaks in a workout schedule, I really lose my momentum, so having a regular schedule in place really helps me stay on track. This is also true with my non-swimming schedule -- the more regular my schedule is, the happier, better rested, and more productive I am.


What do you think about when you swim?


I generally let my mind drift a little bit and see what bubbles up. I've come up with some great ideas or solutions to problems this way. Sometimes I think more intentionally about how I'm swimming, and will focus on different aspects like stroke, kicking, breathing, etc. When I'm swimming open water, I'm definitely more focused on the swimming, as well as enjoying the open water and fresh air.


You had a big year, earning tenure in your job as a librarian.  You refinished your hardwood floors, read voraciously, can knit up a storm, make a mean peach pie...is there anything you cannot do? 


I fully embrace the concept of lifelong learning, so I'm always trying to challenge myself to learn a new skill or improve existing skills. That said, I also embrace that there may be things I'm interested in that aren't a good fit, or that I might try and be terrible at. I've found that there's a lot one can do, given some curiosity, some good starter tools or instructions, time, and patience.


What was your biggest swimming accomplishment?


I had two big accomplishments from the last year. The first was adding on some extra distance with swims prior to River Hugger swims, to start building my distance ability. The second was competing in my first mile race at the Last Gasp of Summer in September.


What was your favorite swim this year?


Some of my favorite swims were the extra early swims, sometimes starting slightly before dawn. It was really beautiful to be in the river, with the city still fairly quiet, as the sun came up.


What is your claim to fame?  What do your friends brag on you for? (courtesy of Cindy Werhane)


That is probably split between the amount and variety of books I read, and my cocktail, wine, and food savvy. I make an excellent Manhattan, and I've introduced more than one friend to the joys of raw oysters.


What speaks to you about spending time in the Willamette? 

I started swimming in the Willamette to get more comfortable swimming in open water. I really enjoy seeing how the river changes from day to day, and from the beginning of the season (June) to the end (September).

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