I Have A Dream! A Salty, Salty Dream…
Population: ~660,000 people and several hundred lizardmen
Number of float centers: 3
Known for: Capitol of these great United States, the Air and Space Museum, a certain memorial of particular significance to Graham and Ashkahn that commemorates our First President.
We’ve been talking about it on this trip and we’re hard pressed to think of a group of people that need to float more than the population of Washington, D.C. If all serving politicians, lobbyists, Supreme Court justices, and the President of the United States of America floated on a regular basis, it’s easy to imagine that the world would be a better place. So I want to dedicate this blog post as a “thank you” to all these centers taking the opportunity to change the world a little bit by getting all those big movers and shakers into tiny, salty boxes.
Say “Ommmmm” … Om Float
Om Float – Ashburn, Virginia
Number of tanks: 4
Years in operation: 1
Tactical Takeaway: Brooks and Amy built their business over 4 years before opening a brick and mortar location. Sometimes taking your time can really pay off.
Other services: Just floating
First off, let’s clarify, technically Om Float is in Ashburn, Virginia, but that’s so close to D.C. you can throw a rock from one to the other (although be careful with that, as the police probably wouldn’t see it as a simple exercise in spacial awareness).
Brooks and Amy have four Samadhi tanks that Brooks personally retrofitted, replacing some of the filters and in-line heaters to hold up to the demand of constant commercial use. They wanted something that was basically bulletproof to hold up the the salt water, leading them to cover the walls from floor to ceiling in waterproof paneling for easy cleanup.
The two of them have been active in the community for a long time. While they just opened Om Float in March, they’ve been floating people out of their home for the last four years. In that time, they’ve put literally hundreds of people in the tanks. Some have even gone on to open their own centers. They’re regulars at the Float Conference and came out to our apprenticeship in Portland, giving them a breadth of experience that has allowed them to really plan for the future when building out their center.
They also sell merchandise from a local soap chef who used to work on a submarine (making food, not soap). His products are all organic and natural: so much so that they’re even safe to eat (although they don’t recommend it). Working as a submarine chef is a much more crucial role than it first seems. As Brooks put it “if you’re going to have dozens of men in a steel canister underwater for months at a time, the food better be good”! The skills he learned in the many years serving naval officers has transferred over to this new passion very well. His refined palate means that he takes careful consideration how each ingredient compliments the others. We got some samples while we were there, so if you think Ashkahn’s hair is particularly lustrous or smells more heavenly than usual, you’ll know why.
Not The Sandra Bullock Movie…
Hope Floats – Bethesda, Maryland
Number of Tanks: 3
Years in Operation: 3
Tactical takeaways: One of the luxuries of owning your own business is you can do whatever you want, even if it’s not traditionally popular.
Other Services: Infrared Sauna, catering options, a killer bachelorette party
Alright, technically it’s in Bethesda, Maryland, still not in D.C. proper. You want to know the dirty truth? There aren’t any float centers within Washington D.C. city limits.
Kimmy at Hope Floats is the only float center that we’ve seen that hosts catered events. It might seem unusual, but it came about organically when she hosted a bachelorette party in her float center. It was the bride’s idea, her logic being “with most bachelorette parties you end up going out late, drinking too much, and feeling terrible the next day. I want to do something memorable that makes you feel good for a long time afterwards.” We couldn’t agree more. The ladies took turns in the tanks while the rest of the party stayed in the lobby; Kimmy supplied catering and wine, and they just hung out, sharing their post-float glow with the rest of the party.
Kimmy’s been actively working with addiction rehabilitation centers in the area and gives discounts for anyone in recovery. Research is just now starting to surface about the benefits of floating on addiction. It’s an issue that’s affected her personally, and she’s seen that floating can have a drastic impact on the recovery process.
Hope Floats has been in business for 3 years, and Kimmy has been floating for a little bit longer than that. In fact, she started floating in Brooks and Amy’s apartment, in part to help with her own chronic issues. As the story goes, she loved it so much, she dedicated herself to opening her own float center. Initially, she opened in a different location but relocated about a year ago – a daunting task for a float center, but one she managed gracefully.
Welcome to Baltimore…
Number of float centers: 1
Known for: Port home to many famous historic battleships that now serve as museums, birthplace to the National Anthem, and the site of more than a few riots.
Be Free Floating – Baltimore, Maryland
Number of Tanks: 1
Years in Operation: 3
Tactical takeaways: As Twig says, “what’s my ideal business? How about one where everyone can get everything they need for free.”
Other Services: Hypnotherapy, salvia therapy
Meeting Twig at Be Free Floating was an eye opening experience. He’s a self-professed anti-capitalist on a personal mission to change the world from the inside out.
He tactically chose West Baltimore as his base of operations to change people’s lives. Many of his clients come from John Hopkins University nearby where they do extensive research with psychedelics in controlled studies, but only for short periods of time. As Twig puts it, “There are dozens of people who’ve had their minds blown with nowhere to go”. At Be Free, Twig embraces psychedelic therapy and floating, two things that would largely be considered on the fringe of society, and that help guide people through self-discovery.
Twig was intensely interested in John Lilly in high school, having read much of his work on dolphins and experiences with LSD. At the same time, he became curious about consciousness expansion and eagerly sought out ways to view the world in a broader lens. This led him down a rabbit hole of introspection: using psychedelics, literature, music, art, and any other tool he could to tackle the metaphysical quandaries that most turn a blind eye to.
He had wanted to try a float tank, but never found the opportunity at the time. Two decades ago, it was nearly impossible to find a float tank on the east coast. Like so many people at that time, floating escaped his mind until one day, unbidden, it came flooding back and he decided that he needed a float tank. Amazingly, he found one on craigslist the same day: an old Samadhi tank. He fixed it up, bought some modern filtration and pump systems, and placed it in his townhouse in West Baltimore.
Twig’s personal philosophy means he isn’t interested in creating a profitable business model. His primary goal is to provide a service to those that need it, and recognizing that those who need it most can’t always pay. Many centers in the industry might not buy into this anti-capitalist agenda, but it can be a valuable perspective to remember when making a business out of changing people’s lives. Twig is happy with his progress, and he’s even acquired a second tank that he’s in the process of retrofitting.
Floating and MMA…
Number of Tanks: 1
Years in Operation: 1
Tactical takeaways: For those just starting out, pairing up with established businesses can be a great way to get your feet off the ground.
Other Services: Just Floating
Method MMA houses a small soundproof room in the back of its center where the owners of Mind Body Soul have built a custom float tank. It’s a cabin style tank built out of a hot tub base with plywood walls covered in visually appealing epoxy paint. It’s a little rough and tumble, but it really illustrates their devotion to floating. We were genuinely impressed at the care put into this homemade tank. Hearing them talk passionately about the tank and the labor of love it was to put together, it’s clear that floating is changing lives here.
One of the owners is an MMA fighter and long time trainer at Method MMA. He was introduced to the Joe Rogan Podcast through MMA, which is how he found floating. Not being able to find a tank within their immediate area, they decided to bootstrap and make their own. It’s mostly for personal use, although they do open it up to let select people come in and float. They’re in the process of refining the design of the tank so that they can hopefully expand one day.
City of Brotherly Love…
Population: 7.2 million in the surrounding area
Number of float centers: 3
Known for: The meeting place of the Founding Fathers in the Revolutionary War, The Liberty Bell, and home of cheese steaks.
Located in West Chester outside of Philly, East Coast Float Spa is something to see. They have captured that comfortable spa feeling without losing the distinct personality that makes it all their own. Trevor Shylock, one of the owners, showed us around his space and shared some of the stories he’s had of running the center. The idea of Float Tour was very familiar for Trevor and his partner, Matt; prior to opening up their center, they traveled from coast to coast visiting centers to see what worked in each space and what they’d want to improve on in their own.
They have 3 custom built tanks – each one with a different theme: “Oasis”, “Infinity” and “Cloud 10”. The theme determines the color of the tank and room, allowing floaters to personalize the experience a little bit. Their post-float lounge is the epitome of relaxation: two zero gravity massage chairs, a flavored oxygen bar, and a waterfall built into the wall. Our cortisol levels dropped just by walking in the door.
Hopefully we’ll see Trevor and Matt out on the West Coast for their next pass around visiting float centers.
Keri at Halcyon has been operating in Philly for 2 years now and just opened her second location last summer. Each one is a two tank center, and her second center has massive, cylindrical, custom built tanks – some of the largest we’ve ever seen. Equipped with a hatch that opens with a counterweight, the whole thing was carefully constructed for convenience and comfort.
Just recently, Flotation Philly opened about a mile from her first shop, founded by a regular customer of Kari’s. She was worried that having another float center so close by would be detrimental to her business, but Graham and Ashkahn told her about Float On’s interactions with The Float Shoppe in Portland and what our business relationship is like.
About once a month they all go out for drinks and share stories about salty catastrophes, and while Float On is under construction, the Float Shoppe is taking care of Float On’s members and employees so they can keep floating while all this chaos is going on. It’s that kind of community that makes the float industry so different, and Kari became a little more excited about having someone nearby to share her experiences with.
Now on to the Jersey Shore…
That’s it for the Washington D.C. area (there aren’t really any float centers within Washington D.C.) and Philly. The east coast has been a very different environment for floating. Here, we’ve seen more custom built float tanks in centers that have a bit more of a personal feel to them. This doesn’t require a major budget during your build-out, just a bit of creativity.
We’re glad that there are places in our nation’s Capitol now where Senators and Lobbyists can come together and compromise on Nothing. We’re sure Nothing will help get Nothing done like Nothing.
Next up on our trip is a journey through New Jersey on our way into New York for the first of our Tour Workshops.
[Editor’s Note: We have 15+ more blog posts to unleash onto the world. Look for more recaps from the Float Tour after we’ve wrapped up The Float Conference.]