10 Bridges in 10 Miles

Distance: 11 miles (5.5 miles roundtrip)

Skill Level Suggested: Moderate Experience (high boat traffic, a lot of cross chop, no beaches or exits for much of the trip)

Workout Level: High

Sense of Reward: High

10 Bridges Image
Photo proof  of 10 bridges taken during the journey

One morning my wife suggested we go on an adventure we haven’t done before, maybe something not too far from home but still more of an all day challenge rather than a one or two hour workout. So was hatched our challenge: 10 Bridges in 10 Miles, although to be honest we really hadn’t had the mileage part figured out yet. Still, it was expected to be a warm and sunny summer day so we thought we’d give it a shot. We packed up some survival gear (egg salad sandwiches, Bud Light Lime and some frozen Bacardi rum drinks. Oh, and water, we aren’t completely insane!). We donned our wide brimmed sunshade hats and hit the road for the park.

We put in at Sellwood Waterfront Park (Sellwood Dogpark) which is just yards from the Sellwood Bridge, then began our trek north. It was a busy day on the river so there were plenty of wakes and chop to consider on the west side of Ross Island, but that’s just the usual stuff. A brisk workout into a slight headwind had us take our first break on the north tip of Ross Island where I devoured my sandwich and a beer. We rested up for a few minutes in the only somewhat warming sun before heading back into the river and immediately below bridge #2, Ross Island Bridge. It was a quick second accomplishment but it still felt good! We meandered up the northeast side of the river to pass by the submarine permanently parked outside of the OMSI. One little tip about SUPing near submarines: the rebound from a wake off the side of a parked submarine is almost equal to the strength of the original wake. After my second fall I realized that a) Submarines are trickier than they appear, and b) I should not approach a submarine shortly after consuming a beer. Lesson learned, and a drenching in the Willamette was not too bad.

industrial portland
Ah, the anti-beauty of industrial PDX on the rivers edge!

Back to the task at hand, it was a short and slightly less rewarding event to cross under Tilikum Crossing as it’s not too far from Ross Island Bridge, but one more bridge off the list is one more bridge off the list. Now here’s where the route gets tricky. The river narrows and the edges are met with large concrete walls rather than island beaches or wooded areas. The boat traffic gets a little congested at times and the water chop increases with boat wakes bouncing off of concrete walls. While it was manageable, our progress was definitely hampered due to a loss of forward momentum in the choppy water between the narrow walls.

SUP vs SUB. SUP: 0  SUB: 1
SUP vs SUB. SUP: 0 SUB: 1

I won’t belabor the crossing of every bridge but let me tell you, it felt GREAT to finally pass under the Fremont Bridge and take a well deserved break! Oh man, it was a longer haul than expected! Oh, and we’re only halfway there. The ride back was no picnic with additional boat traffic passing through, the cooler than expected day, and the shear fatigue of the first half of our journey catching up to our shoulders. We made two stops on the way back to Sellwood to catch our breath and eat a snack, both stops were on Ross Island’s north and south beaches.

This was not my favorite challenge ever just due to the extreme urban surroundings and the cross chop in the narrows but I’m sure we’re doing it again before summer is over.

10th Bridge
Ecstatic to safely make it to the 10th bridge!

If you do it I’d encourage you to photo log it like I did, which I think in the long run is better than a trophy any day! All images were taken on my GoPro, which I set for this workout at one image every 5 seconds rather than video. The whole trip required two batteries and the first one coincidentally died two minutes after we passed through our final bridge exactly halfway into the trip.

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