Now that the salt has settled, I’m sharing some thoughts from “The Great Gathering of People Who Really Love Being Alone Sometimes in a Dark, Briny Room,” also known as The Float Conference.
The conference has always been an amazing opportunity to connect with the pulse of the broader float industry and, if this year’s gathering showed us anything, it’s that our collective heartbeat is as strong as ever.
It was such a joy to spend a weekend with over 700 individuals who you don’t have to explain floating to.
We got to bask in a broad social sphere of shared understanding and enthusiasm. I was reminded how special that opportunity truly is when attending a wedding this weekend — I was constantly starting at square one when explaining what I did for work, with occasional slow tune-out’s, blank stares, and well meaning, but now rote references to The Simpsons, Altered States, sensory deprivation, and Stranger Things. Most people, though, were like, “I should try that!” and then I was like, “Yahh, let’s go dance to more bluegrass!”
Attending the Float Conference is like stumbling upon a remote island where everyone speaks your secret language. If I had to name that language, it would probably be epsomaltic.
While every attendee’s experience is bound to be unique, the conference is inherently validating because it helps remind each of us that we’re part of a broad and passionate industry — I might even say movement. Though solitude, darkness, and quiet are our products, the industry is anything but isolating. Even if you end up being the only center in your immediate area, the conference helps you recognize that you’re not the only saltrapreneur in the world. Plus, float people give the best hugs.
When I’m not writing for Float Tank Solutions, I help plan and organize the Float Conference. After a year of existing in the Conference Land of spreadsheets, website development, set design, catering menus, and endless emails, it was incredible to see the event actually take physical form, to see names become faces, to see talk abstracts become phenomenal presentations, and to see outlandish ideas become reality. It’s equally powerful when it ends, provoking a bittersweet and affirming combination of emptiness and satisfaction. It feels like no sooner than the conference rolls around, we’re asked to let it go.
Here are a few of the impressions and memories that stand out from my own conference experience:
The team at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) presented research from its first clinical studies, taking major steps towards a concrete demonstration of how the float environment can benefit populations with anxiety and eating disorders. While these initial findings may seem obvious for those of us familiar with floating, more developed research will allow float enthusiasts to point to concrete findings and say, “See, floating is beneficial for ______” without having to rely on anecdotal experience. This research will bring floatation to a wider range of people which, in my opinion, is what we’re all about. This year’s presentations focused on pre/post-float subjective data along with relevant physiological markers. LIBR’s goal is to work toward a randomized control trial that can dig deeper into how floating affects these clinical populations. This, and other conference videos, are being released on the Float Conference YouTube channel.
The early results from the collaborative research between the Air Force, The Ohio State University, and the University of Cincinnati are very encouraging. Athletes who float regularly sing praises about the float tank’s ability to reduce recovery time and increase performance, but we’re finally starting to see data to back this up. Early results from these teams paint an impressive picture of the float tank as an ideal recovery and training environment. Their research saw decreases in musculoskeletal pain/soreness, increased immune function, decreased heart rate/blood pressure, enhanced autonomous nervous system regulation, increased circulation, and decreased cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone levels. This research comes at a potent time, when float tanks are starting to appear more readily in athlete and popular culture. With teams and individual athletes willing to try anything to gain an edge, this and future data will undoubtedly encourage more professional and amateur athletes to integrate floating into their training and recovery. Beyond just athletes, increased exposure for floating in a major cultural realm like athletics will have a ripple effect on the society’s collective curiosity about floating.
The Duncan Trussell Family Hour live podcast with Chris Ryan was one of my conference highlights. Even though they spent a refreshingly–minimal amount of time actually talking about floating (when asked for conversation topics from the audience, a vocal attendee even suggested, “Not floating!”) it was such a thrill to see these two brilliant, compassionate, and hilarious individuals have a conversation.
My favorite moment, specifically, was getting to see Glenn Perry ask/state a question/idea and have Duncan simply pause, smile, and say, “Man, I loove you,” after a few back and forth ideas about gardening and connecting with plants. Aside from being an adorable snapshot, it was made even cooler by the fact that Duncan probably didn’t know who Glenn was at that point. (Speculation, your honor!) The podcast, in general, was a model of how people who come from a place of openness, curiosity, and engagement can interact.
While not a huge revelation or takeaway, per se, the Saturday night party at OMSI was so much fun! There are now a few hundred more people in our world who can confidently say that they have partied on a submarine and then played Lord of the Tides in a warehouse of interactive science exhibits and games after a pirate themed bus ride. Even though it was a party full of adults, it gave us a container to be playful and childlike and, to me, was a nice reflection of the soul and values of our industry. While our floating does invite people to engage in deep reflection and healing, it also nurtures our lighthearted and carefree qualities, something the world can always use more of.
The conference is a good opportunity to meet and connect with all sorts of vendors, like float tank manufacturers, salt distributors, and various industry organizations. There are new and revised tanks, updated filtration designs, and so much more. This year’s highlight, for me, was Pop-Up Float unveiling two super cool inflatable float tanks — I hope I get to try one out one day. For someone looking to open up a float center, it’s helpful to be able to look at and consider all the various options and actually talk to the people who made them.
There are so many roles within the float industry, and the conference is an amazing opportunity to see those pieces all come together — to be able to see the industry as a living, breathing mosaic of our unique passion. Whether you’re a float center owner, manufacturer, advocate, consultant, event organizer — or simply someone who loves floating — every single person has a role to play in this evolving industry.
Whether you came to the conference or not, always remember that you don’t exist in isolation. You’re part of something larger, intimately more connected and revolutionary than we can begin to imagine.
We’re so excited to see this industry evolve and spread, and we look forward to seeing you at Float Conference 2018. Until then, if you ever need a reminder of why you’re pursuing this salty dream, give us a call and we’ll nerd out about floating with you,