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River Hugger Report

September 21, 2017

The record-breaking heat of this summer only added to the enthusiasm with which our city embraced the mighty downtown Willamette. The River Huggers Swim Team had a fantastic season, logging 62 swims during our regular season (June 15 – September 15), and drawing record numbers: Most swims included thirty-plus participants, and new members continued to join through the season.


Thanks to some important groundwork in the winter and spring, we developed our relationships with the Portland Triathlon Club, with Reed College, and with the organizers of Portland favorites such as the Portland Bridge Swim and the Naked Goddess Swim. We also benefitted from strong coverage in local and national media: t.v. crews were often to be found on the dock to catch footage of our early morning swims; and a story on the Human Access Project and the Huggers was picked up by the A.P. and featured in venues from the New York Times to smaller, local papers across the country. As a result of these developments, we are happy to report that the River Huggers was financially self-sustaining this year.

In addition to the regular swims, the Huggers contributed to some fine Riverlutionary actions: the Second Annual Mayoral Swim (in which the Huggers and Mayor Ted Wheeler swam across the river to the rat-a-tat-tat of the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers –we were led out into the water by the delightful athleticism of the Rose City Raindrops); a mass swim across the Willamette to kick off The Big Float; our once-in-a-lifetime Eclipse Float in which Huggers hosted Portlanders and visitors from all over to take in a water’s eye view of 99.4% totality during the solar eclipse; and a swim-a-thon to raise funds for the restoration of our mighty cousin, the Columbia River Gorge, in the wake of the Eagle Creek and Indian Creek fires --generous Huggers and our sponsors raised just over $2,000.00 for the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge. Add in a few informal swims over to the Duckworth dock to enjoy the late breezes and gaze out at the streaky pink and violet skies over the Steel Bridge at sunset, and it’s hard to imagine how our season could have been improved.

The Huggers could not run these swims without the support of our safety paddlers. Eli Nicholson, Alex Dey, Ruth Williams, Taylor Meek, Jim, Mila and Tristan Leissler: many thanks and big Hugs.


The River Huggers swim from the dock at Fire Station 21, MWF at 7 a.m. (crossing under the Hawthorne Bridge to the Tom McCall bowl; about .25 mile each way). T/Th evenings the Huggers swim from the dock at 6 p.m. (along the east side to the Morrison Bridge and back; about .3 mile each way).  In general, our season runs from June 15 – September 15, but we are guided by the water: 65 degrees and above is great for swimming. HAP discourages swimming in the river when the water temperature dips below 65.  


Riverlutionary actions: TBF, Mayoral Swim, Eclipse Float, Fundraiser