Solo swim makes waves in Willamette

Portland marathon swimmer Michelle Macy, June 6, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Portland marathon swimmer Michelle Macy, June 6, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, ORE. (Tribune) – Portland marathon swimmer Michelle Macy hopes to swim laps across the Willamette River on Friday — for 12 straight hours — to promote recreational swimming in the city’s downtown river.

FILE - This Monday, July 5, 2010 picture provided by Elizabeth Einset shows Michelle Macy of Oregon swimming across Clarence Strait in Ketchikan, Alaska with Michael Schuler accompanying her in a kayak. Macy has been traveling to Ketchikan for the past four or five years to participate in the annual Pennock Island open-water swim. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Einset)
FILE – This Monday, July 5, 2010 picture provided by Elizabeth Einset shows Michelle Macy of Oregon swimming across Clarence Strait in Ketchikan, Alaska with Michael Schuler accompanying her in a kayak. Macy has been traveling to Ketchikan for the past four or five years to participate in the annual Pennock Island open-water swim. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Einset)

Macy envisions swimming 75 laps across the river, with each lap about a quarter-mile, says event organizer Will Levenson.

She won’t be using a wetsuit, though she will have a kayaker escort for safety purposes.

Portlanders can watch Macy from the Vera Katz Esplanade or the north side of the Hawthorne Bridge from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Levenson says. “Depending on how it goes, she might even do flip turns off the sea wall.”

Levenson, who co-founded the annual Big Float event on the river to get Portlanders swimming in the Willamette again, recently founded a new nonprofit to carry on the work, called the Human Access Project.

It’s the first of at least four swimming events on the river in coming weeks.

On July 5, the Human Access Project is co-sponsoring the World Float, an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. People on inner tubes will form a human chain, trying to break the current mark of 540 for Most People in a Floating Line. Several hundred Portlanders tried the same feat at the 2012 Big Float, but failed.

“At any given point, we had about 400,” Levenson recalls. However, all those people frolicking on the water had a hard time getting with the program. “It wasn’t a contiguous line; it figure-eighted a little bit.”

On July 21, at the Portland Bridge Swim, 80 solo swimmers and relay teams will swim almost 11 miles on the Willamette, from Sellwood to St. Johns.

Then the third-annual Big Float, a giant inner-tube party on the river, takes place July 28th. For more information: humanaccessproject.com; macyswim.com; worldfloat.eventbrite.com; portlandbridgeswim.com; thebigfloat.com.

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