Portlanders aim to be in Guinness Book for longest floating line

by: COURTESY OF HUMAN ACCESS PROJECT - An attempt to set the world record for Most People in a Floating Line on the Willamette River came up short last year. This years World Float has been set up to break the record of 542, set in Italy in 2008.The Willamette River is there and open for swimming and other recreation, and a long line of inner-tubers are getting ready to prove it.

The World Float, a spinoff of the annual Big Float Willamette River awareness event, has been organized to try to set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for longest connected line of inner-tubers on water — “Most People in a Floating Line,” officially.

An attempt came up short last year at the Big Float. The record of 542 people, set in Viareggio, Italy, in 2008 will go down on the Willamette River on July 5, promises Will Levenson, ringleader of the Human Access Project.

“I do think it’s going to happen,” says Levenson, a passionate supporter of the Willamette River. He says there were 400 registrants, as of June 21, and the U.S. Coast Guard has given permission for about 700 inner-tubers to be stretched, in a zig-zag pattern so as to not interfere with river business, from the dock at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry north to the Hawthorne Bridge.

“If we get there (to 700), it’ll be a three-quarter-mile-long inner-tube chain of people holding hands on the Willamette River. A fun way to kick off summer, a fun way to celebrate the Willamette.”

Once the inner-tubers are in place and holding hands, a flying drone camera will document the event for the Guinness folks. “We’re taking our documentation very seriously,” Levenson says.

“It’s all just hilarious. Just an exercise in fun.”

The World Float, as well as the Portland Bridge Swim (July 21) and Big Float (July 28), aims to show Portland-area residents that the Willamette River can be used by swimmers and water recreation enthusiasts, that the threat of sewage runoff and pollution has changed.

“It’s to get people in the water who wouldn’t otherwise have thought about it,” Levenson says. “Once in the water, they can become ambassadors.

“The Willamette River is Portland’s largest public space. We need better access points; it’s perfectly safe to swim, but where do you do it? Portland has an extreme deficit in places at the water’s edge. And, we want Portland’s citizenry to fall in love with the Willamette River.”

The World Float record attempt starts at 9 a.m. Friday, July 5, on the east side of the Willamette River near OMSI.

Levenson has brought in noted kayak expert Sam Drevo to help with logistics, which will include putting 700 inner-tubers in the water in an hour and a half. There will be compressors on site; the $20 entry fee includes a life jacket and inner-tube to meet world record specifications. Afterward, the participant can use the tube again in the Big Float.

Do you answer “yes” to the following?: You can swim and are comfortable in open bodies of water; you don’t mind holding hands with someone you don’t know; you’re generally awesome and like to work together to accomplish big things. If so, Levenson wants you.

For information on participating, go to or sign up at

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