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Float Tour 2016 Blog

Manhattan is another place that kind of feels like the “front lines” for the float industry. The largest, densest city in America, it’s often called the Capital of the World. This is where Wall Street, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Carnegie Hall, and damn near every industry in the world live! New York is where it’s at, and it’s arguably the busiest place on the planet. People here live fast-paced lives and rarely – if ever – have time to slow the fuck down and enjoy themselves. Just like Jersey, people here also see skepticism as a point of pride, and take it to an even greater extreme. All of this  makes New York a sort of “proving grounds” for floating: if it can make it in New York, it can make it anywhere.

Floating in the Big Apple…

New York, New York

Population: ~8.6 million

Number of float centers: ~6

Known for: The largest city in America, the city that never sleeps, the epicenter of American economy, culture, and media.

Lift Handy Hands

Lift / Next Level Floats

Number of tanks: 5

Years in operation: 1

Tactical Takeaway: “If anything can go wrong, it will. Definitely prep as much as you can, but no matter what you do, shit’s gonna hit the fan. But it’s still worth it.” – Dave of Lift / Next Level Floats

Other services: Just floating

Lift out of Brooklyn is booked up for weeks at a time and has been featured in a seemingly unending list of news articles: NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and literally dozens of other journalists from different media outlets have floated at Lift. They’ve captured huge amounts of buzz simply by being a dedicated float center in New York. This is definitely not intended to sell David and Gina short – they’ve built a fantastic center. However, even they are a little awestruck by the media blitz, and when we asked Dave how he managed it, he said “people ask us what we’re doing to get so much attention. I just shrug my shoulders. They just kinda show up.”

Not everything has been smooth sailing, though. Their shop is on the 2nd story of their building and their float tanks wouldn’t fit in the stairwell. They had properly measured every dimension and it should’ve fit, if not for a low hanging ceiling that complicated the angle of the rigid tanks. They had all four of their tanks on the sidewalk outside their building with no way to get them in, and it was getting dark in Brooklyn. The only other way into the building was by taking out their window and using a crane. It turns out that most commercial cranes require permitting to use in Brooklyn on the streets – a process that can take up to two weeks! Luckily they were able to find a smaller crane that fell under different requirements and were able to get their tanks in that night.

Prior to opening Lift, Dave was an attorney and hated his job. He had floated back in the 80s in college in Ann Arbor but forgot about it after a while. Gina was interested in floating and thinking about opening a center for a long time. She actually wanted to call it Float On, which is how she initially found us and heard about the apprenticeship program. She flew out, was part of one of our early classes, toured float centers all up and down the West coast before she started working at Urban Float in Seattle.

Dave and Gina met in 2013 when they were both at the Float Conference. Shoshana Leibner (who we sat down with in blog post #3) actually introduced the two of them to each other since she knew they were both interested in starting a float center in New York. Two days after they met they were business partners – more evidence that floating can derail your life in powerful and unexpected ways.

Back to Jersey…

Waldwick, New Jersey

Population: ~9,600

Number of float centers: 1

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Cloud Aquatic

Number of tanks: 3

Years in operation: 1

Tactical Takeaway: A float center, just like a tank, doesn’t always give you what you want, but often provides what you need.

Other services: Just floating

Mike Valesio of Cloud Aquatic has always been keenly interested in the relationship between mind and body: how subtle changes in thinking can sometimes become drastic shifts in a person’s perception of reality. He made it a practice to meditate to enhance his mental well being, and he was constantly seeking out methods of clearing your mind and experimenting to find what sort of practices were most effective. He had heard about floating several years ago but wasn’t able to find a place nearby to try it.

For a long time, Mike was a professional poker player and toying with this mind/body relationship affected his day to day life pretty dramatically. If he had mental clarity, then he could win more games. As you can imagine, it’s a fairly chaotic lifestyle; late nights, drinking, and high stress environments are the norm. He says it’s difficult to pinpoint which one came first, the insomnia or the late nights, but either way it wore on him.

When he finally tried floating, he was looking to find a means for deeper meditative practice. What he actually found was that he slept through the night peacefully for the first time in years. He was more relaxed, and had fewer aches in his body; the results were so significant he made floating a regular practice. What was so striking to him was the efficacy of finding, as he puts it, that “homeostatic sweet spot” without requiring years of meditative practice. When he had meditated, this was a place he could only get to after hours of concentration – with floating it happened within minutes.

He began looking deeper into floating, and found the old studies that John Turner and Tom Fine ran back in the 80s, which led him to Justin Feinstein’s research out of LIBR. After all his research, Mike knew he wanted to open a float center and share it with the world. It’s only been a few months since he opened, but he already can’t imagine doing anything else.

Heading to a farm upstate…

Mt. Kisco, New York

Population: ~11,000

Number of float centers: 1

Known for: Birthplace of Bill O’Reilly and Caitlyn Jenner, so take that for what it’s worth.

Rise Above Floatation

Number of tanks: 3

Years in operation: 1

Tactical Takeaway: Thinking outside the box can create a lot of fun and useful opportunities.

Other services: Massage

Mt. Kisco is a small town nestled in upstate New York. A time capsule of upper middle class suburbia surrounded by multi-million dollar estates. Downtown is simultaneously quaint and elegant, filled with tiny storefronts boasting decadent displays, public buildings with grand architecture from the turn of the century, and itty-bitty streets that made driving our poor Minnie Winnie a bit of a challenge. It was worth it, though, just to find our destination. The scenic stillness of this picturesque downtown strip was perfectly complimented by Rise Above Floatation.

Micah and Katie have poured their souls into their space. There are offers of complimentary chocolate and wine (maybe that was just for us) as well as an antique record player in the corner. We sank into their victorian style couches as we chatted about their center. The float rooms were built out by Micah himself, each one painstakingly hand crafted, drawing on years of experience as a contractor. They’ve installed three different models of Floataway tanks in rooms that have a slightly rustic feel to them.

They opened in September and they’re already finding fun and interesting ways to share floating with their community. They host Full Moon float parties every month, giving steep discounts and running floats late into the night while people listen to music, chat, and drink wine in their lobby. Those who are introduced to floating here should consider themselves lucky; not everyone gets the luxury of a decadent party as part of their initial steps into these dark, saliferous chambers.

Checking out Connecticut

Westport, CT

Population: ~26,000

Number of float centers: 1

Known for: Ranked the 10th wealthiest town with a population between 20,000 and 60,000

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iFloat Sensations

Number of tanks: 4

Years in operation: 8

Tactical Takeaway: Avoid burnout by being energized by your clients instead of becoming emotionally drained by them.

Other services: Just floating

David Conneely has been running iFloat out of Westport since 2010, and how he came across it is wholly unusual. Back in 2009 he was a high school teacher in Brooklyn and did Shamanic Counseling on the side – a fairly modern practice of incorporating shamanism in a hands-off approach to guiding clients to their own personal growth. In this way, the counselor doesn’t offer solutions to problems, but cultivates self-reflection to find answers. It was through this community that he found floating, and he felt that it was an extremely complimentary service to his blend of counselling.

Immediately after floating, David put serious thought into opening a center but wanted to visit one that was already established first. He had a hard time finding one near him, but had heard of a 4-tank center in Connecticut. He tried to call ahead to no avail, so he decided to drive out there and see first hand how the business was doing. He showed up to find the center fully built, but completely abandoned. He spoke to the property manager who owned the business immediately below, trying to find out more about the center. He let David know that the business was in fact abandoned and scheduled to be demolished that very weekend. After he explained why he was there, the manager said was willing to sell it to David instead if he made an offer in time to call off the demolition crew. David went from thinking about opening up a float center to owning a 4-tank center within a matter of hours.

David himself is a thoughtful and empathetic person. Helping people comes naturally to him, and that’s a large part of what owning a float center has meant to him. He’s never considered himself much of a businessman, though, and as the only person running his shop for six years, he feels ready to move on and go back to teaching.

On the Other Side of a Tiny State…

Trumbull, CT

Population: ~36,000

Number of float centers: 1

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PuRest

Number of tanks: 4

Years in operation: 1

Tactical Takeaway: “You want the feeling of making a million dollars? I’ve done that. I used to get 7 figure bonuses. And it’s incredible. But now I get that feeling every single day when I see people getting out of the tank.” – Chris, on floating

Other services: Hosting community events with a focus on alternative wellness.

PuRest is located in an unassuming office building in Trumbull – a sleepy little town in northern Connecticut. Their space is on the ground floor, with very little signage from the outside – once inside, however, the clinical facade is forgotten. Their reception area is a narrow hallway with eclectic art pieces hanging on the walls, accented with dim sconces. Another hallway winds off to the side, past a small office, before opening up to their incredibly spacious lounge. It felt like stepping into another world; the lounge looks out over the hillside and the trees, almost completely shutting out the civilized world. The floors are blue marbled epoxy, making it look like you’re walking on water. Even the furniture is larger than life – all of the pieces are sectional, allowing you to make it nearly any size or shape you like (I made myself comfortable in a couch that was appropriately sized for Andre the Giant).

One of the running jokes we have about joining the float industry is that it’s kind of like “corporate rehab.” Many of the people we’ve met on this trip started out in soul crushing 9-to-5 jobs, trapped in cubicles until they decide they can’t take it anymore. Floating takes over their lives and they take their savings and pour it into a float center. PuRest takes this to the next level.

Chris and Lee opened at the end of last August. Prior to that, Chris was working on Wall Street as a CTO for a Fortune 500 company. It was a cut-throat environment that meant long hours and fat paychecks for those that managed to stay on top. To say it was stressful would be like saying Jupiter is big. It was so bad, in fact, that it was affecting Chris’ health. His doctor warned him that the stress of his current lifestyle was going to put him six feet under within ten years.

Chris came from a culture that thought stress was all in the mind, so he figured he could deal with it. All the same, he didn’t want to put himself at risk, and he decided to start floating weekly to manage the pressure. He began to notice a major difference almost instantly. His mood was better, and he didn’t feel as stressed; on Monday mornings while his colleagues were yelling at their subordinates to try and drive up numbers, Chris was calmly talking to his team to root out problems and be proactive. His numbers went up, his team was more productive, and ironically, he started to care less and less about the bottom line.

Even floating every week, though, it wasn’t enough. By Friday he’d be a wreck and couldn’t sleep: the job was getting to him. The only reason to stay was for the money, but what good was that if he lost his health and never saw his family? After tallying that particular cost-benefit analysis, the choice to open a center became clear.

In the Birthplace of the American Revolution…

Boston, Massachusetts

Population: ~4.7 million in the surrounding area

Number of float centers: 2

Known for: Pretty famous for their tea parties.

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Float Boston

Number of tanks: 4

Years in operation: 2

Tactical Takeaway: The best time to start a mailing list is yesterday. The second best time is now.

Other services: Just floating

Float Boston just celebrated their one year anniversary in February. And what a year it’s been! They’re one of the most booked up centers that we’ve visited. How does this happen? They ran an extremely effective guerrilla marketing campaign prior to opening, crowdfunding their center. They kept a detailed blog of their opening process, covering everything from their first float to acquiring their first tanks, to mishaps during the construction. People in the community started to follow the whole thing very closely. By the time they opened, they had a mailing list in the thousands and people reading about their every move. After they opened, strangers came in to float and treated them like old friends, having seen them overcome so many obstacles throughout the year.

Their schedule isn’t the only thing packed to the brim, either. Walking in was a bit like returning home for Graham and Ashkahn: narrow hallways, tiny float rooms, hidden storage spaces for salt… they’re the only center we’ve visited so far that even comes close to the same, minuscule square footage per float room as Float On.

Sara and Colin have found a delicate balance between a never-ending line of passionate floaters and running a business together. I’m sure it helps that they’re two of the most cheerful people I’ve ever met. They’ve thought about opening a second location to meet the demand, but that doesn’t actually sound less busy. They’ve just recently expanded from two float tanks to four, so for now, they’re plenty happy blowing people’s minds with saltwater boxes in just one building.

Not Quite Portlandia…

Portland, Maine

Population: ~66,000

Number of float centers: 2

Known for: Lobster, being mistaken for its younger, more popular cousin of the same name.

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Float Harder

Number of tanks: 3

Years in operation: 1

Tactical Takeaway: When finding a location, look for a place that is already serving similar needs.

Other services: Just floating

Float Harder in Portland, Maine was a destination location for us on Float Tour. We visited them almost exactly halfway through the tour, making it a perfect midway point in our Portland to Portland to Portland loop.

James and Amy Harder found floating after booking a massage/float combo in Colorado,  curious about the experience. They quickly realized that this was more than just a relaxing spa service. Almost immediately afterwards, they spent several weeks hiking the entirety of the Appalachian trail, but their floats stuck with them. By the time they had reached the end of the trail, they had discussed it thoroughly and decided to open their own center. They packed up, headed back to Maine and found a space.

They were really lucky when they picked out their building, too. It was a former laundromat, so it came equipped with floor drains, tankless water heaters, and electrical systems already wired to with 220v outlets, giving them a major head start on their buildout.

Prior to opening, James Harder shopped around for tanks from different manufacturers. He ended up contacting James Ramsey of Superior Float Tanks to see if there was anywhere nearby where he could try out his tanks before installing three in his center. Ramsey told him that  the New England Patriots were the closest with a tank, but they didn’t let people try it. As luck would have it though, they were ordering another tank from Superior, so Ramsey offered to let Harder come and help with the installation. Harder, a lifelong Patriots fan, had to think about the offer for all of two seconds. To him, the benefit was 3-fold: he got to visit the Patriots (awesome), he got hands on experience assembling a tank with the manufacturer (also awesome), and he gets to tell his customers that they’re floating in the same float tanks as Tom Brady (super awesome).

Contrary to Popular Belief, Vermonters do NOT Float in Maple Syrup

Burlington, VT

Population: ~42,000

Number of float centers: 1

Known for: Home to an angry populist Independent in the U.S. Senate, great maple syrup

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Satori Float & Mind Spa

Number of tanks: 2

Years in operation: 7

Tactical Takeaway: Finding a location with complimentary services is built-in advertising. Don’t be afraid to utilize it.

Other services: Mind Spa, massage

We visited Rahn over at Satori Float Spa as our last stop in the U.S. before trekking into Canada. He has two Samadhi tanks in an office space of a wellness center. Peaceful artwork on walls, soothing music playing (composed by Rahn himself), and well controlled lighting make this otherwise small space give off an aura of serenity.

Rahn has built an entire healing service based around his music with a service that he calls The Mind Spa. It incorporates light and audio therapy to send people into deep meditative states using custom-made tables with speakers built-in to send vibrations through the body. The music is specifically designed to reach pressure points in the body and release tension. Rahn offers combination float/mind-spa packages for those looking to double down on deeply meditative relaxation services.

Our next issue brings us across the border…

We have officially made our first pass through the United States! It’s been a fantastic look at how different regions embrace floating. We’re not done, though – we’ll be cutting back into the U.S. to go through Chicago, then heading west, giving us a chance to check out float centers in the the middle of the country.

From here we journey into Canada, starting with Montreal, a city with a more global culture that seems almost isolated from the rest of North America, in no small part due to the language barrier. Because of this, the hype that we see around floating (inspired by people like Joe Rogan or Stephen Curry) doesn’t carry as much weight. This doesn’t mean floating is completely alien to them – in fact, they have one of the largest and oldest float centers in the world – but we haven’t observed the same rapid growth there that we’ve seen throughout the U.S.

We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and (now) Instagram where we’ll share more images from the Float Tour that won’t necessarily make this blog

Until issue #16…

 
 

Float Tank Conference