On Friday morning, a group of Willamette River advocates will attempt to claim the title for the most people in a floating line. The number to beat is 542, the record set in 2008 in Viareggio, Italy.
Today, organizer Will Levenson said he has 561 people signed up to participate.
For Levenson, the event is about more than breaking a world record. He says he wants to see Portlanders give a little more love to the Willamette River, which has long been plagued by pollution from sewer overflows.
But since the city of Portland has spent more than a billion dollars improving its sewer pipes, the overflows are few and far between, and the river is clean enough to swim in most of the year.
Levenson, who also co-owns Popina Swimwear in Portland, wants to change the Willamette’s tainted image by spurring more people jump in for a swim.
“I think it will speed up the process and allow us to transform the river into something Portland is generally not very proud about into something that will become an amenity for the city,” he said. “It will transform how Portland recreates in the summertime downtown.”
Levenson is also organizing the third year of an event he calls The Big Float on July 28, where hundreds of people all swim, paddle and float across the river at the same time.
Last year, The Big Float participants tried and failed to break the world record for the most people in a floating line. Levenson is trying again Friday with help from the World Domination Summit – a conference of “unconventional creative people” taking place in Portland this week.