Taste the Rockies (tastes like salt)
Number of float centers: 10
Known for: The Gold Rush, excellent skiing, and Coors – “Taste the Rockies”
Grown out of some of the most majestic sights in the entire U.S., Denver is a city unlike any other. It forms a delicate balance between urban sprawl and nature, providing it with an abundance of scenic views and a healthy, outdoorsy culture.
Denver has been home to a vibrant float community for a long time. Some of the earliest commercial centers that started up in the ‘70s and ‘80s were out here. 30 years is a long time, and most of the old centers aren’t around anymore, but there’s a conscious community that has been floating since the old days and they love how much the industry has evolved and grown.
Ben Gleason found floating at a point in his life where he was looking for change. Long before opening Isolate, his day-to-day life felt aimless. He didn’t enjoy things like other people and was constantly hounded by depression and thoughts of self-harm. He lived like people do when things don’t matter to them: ate fast food every day, didn’t exercise, and drifted through his days in a hazy, fog-filled malaise.
He floated for the first time after hearing about it on the Joe Rogan Experience. It took him a while to get into it but, during his first float, he found that sweet spot and just gave in. He no longer felt anxious. His thoughts of depression were abated. Coming out of the tank, he knew he had found what he was looking for – a tool to help better himself.
At the start of his journey, he was over 300 pounds. After a year of floating, along with diet and exercise, he dropped to 195. He’s filled his mind with positivity and found things he is truly passionate about and enjoys. Beyond running Isolate, Ben is also the talented DJ/Musician, Glucose, mixing together electronica, IDM, and jungle music to concoct a wholly different, interstellar sound.
It’s true that we’ve found stories of profound change while on this Tour, and many of them are similar to Ben, but seeing him today, it’s hard to imagine that he was ever anything but the happy, confident and friendly man we’ve met.
Floating on Cloud Nine…
Daniel Clarke at Cloud Nine started up at almost exactly the same time as Ben Gleason. Daniel actually heard about floating from his nephew, who floated with us at Float On. Daniel became intensely interested in floating and dove into the research from Peter Suedfield, Tom Fine, and John Turner. Seeing the impact that these studies demonstrated, it became hugely important to him to make it available to as many people as possible.
Josh Weaver, while not an owner, has worked at both Isolate and Cloud Nine over the past few years. He’s found floating to be a fantastic tool to enhance his meditation. He and Daniel quickly formed a friendship, sharing their experiences in the tank with each other. Josh also operates the blog, Tankism, which explores the meditative side of floatation.
The two of them are a bit of an “Odd Couple” of floating. Daniel loves floating and the science behind it. He enjoys the challenge of creating a perfectly neutral environment. Josh focuses on sharing his meditative practices and the consciousness expanding properties that he has personally experienced in the tank.
Coming at it from such different perspectives makes them a very complimentary team. Together they have created a habitat for serenity and healing, allowing people to find a part of themselves that might otherwise have been lost.
Take Me Down to the Waters…
Lisa Lopez was in Portland in 2012 for a business conference when she asked for recommendations of things to do in town. “Floating” came up nearly straight away along with testimonials from first time floaters. The words “life-changing” and “unique” were used frequently. She was intrigued. As Lisa made her way down to Float On, she was heartbroken to discover they were booked for weeks out. But, as luck would have it, they received a call for a cancellation while she was standing in the shop: she was going to get to float!
She was immediately hooked. She had fought chronic pain for years and had tried everything. It had been so bad, she even had to retire from the police force in Denver. After floating, her pain disappeared, and it stayed away for days.
When she got home, she had a hard time finding a place to regularly float, so she decided to start Healing Waters Float Studio. She brought her parents into the venture and, together, they’ve run a 3 tank center for the last 3 years. It’s been so successful that they’re opening a new location with six tanks, making it the largest center in Colorado. Congratulations!
Time to Get Tank’d!
Tank’d was started by Renee and Cody Parkes in late 2015. Renee was a massage therapist at A New Spirit where she was introduced to floating. She floated regularly for 3 years there and noticed a drastic improvement in her anxiety and the arthritis she had developed from working with her hands. Renee is also active and into crossfit, and she sees floating as a great compliment to that.
On a personal note, the decor of this center is one of my favorites. They have a mural of giant squid tentacles in their lobby as well as a gonzo fist poster framed in their hallway from when Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff. Undeniably cool.
Unravelling the Mysteries…
Number of tanks: 1
Years in operation: 1
Tactical Takeaway: Ambition will take you far, a hole in your wall to fit a float tank in will take you farther.
Other services: therapeutic massage. Shiatsu, energy work, tarot, acupuncture, chinese medicine, thought field therapy, psychic readings, neurolinguistics programming, crystal healing, reiki, meditation instruction, juice bar, and others
Bobbi has run Into the Mystic for years. It’s an old building that used to serve as a boarding house for miners during the Gold Rush. The home is beautiful and large, with roughly a dozen separate rooms. Bobbi rents out each room to the practitioners, and has a large retail space in the lobby where she sells everything from quartz crystals to t-shirts. It wasn’t until recently that she included a float tank.
She heard about floating from her sister and knew that she had to try it. She found floating to be a great tool to help her explore her own spirituality and wanted to share that with others. She and her husband bought a single Float Pod and converted the deck of their shop into a float room. The pod was so large, however, that they had to take out a wall just to get it inside! Bobbi was relieved to hear that she is very far from the only person to have to go through such extreme measures to open a float center, and – after we told her some of the stories we’ve heard on this trip – she’s grateful that’s all she had to do.
While floating isn’t their primary function, they’ve really enjoyed having a tank in their Healing Arts Center. Bobbi likes the idea of unmanned services for enlightenment and spiritual guidance, and even has aspirations of opening her own multitank center downtown.
A Lot of Heart in the Heart of Denver…
Paul and Heather Clift are the shit. They are the kind of people who will let you crash in their parking lot with your huge RV, put you in a float tank for two hours, and take you out for drinks until 3 in the morning… at least, that was my experience.
The first time Graham and Ashkahn met them was when they both came out to the Float Conference in 2014 and, subsequently, stayed in Portland for the Apprenticeship. They fell in love with floating and dove head first into opening Samana, but they immediately faced issues with the city from day one that progressed at the speed of bureaucracy. It was 14 months after they signed their lease before they even opened – 5 of those months were tied up getting permits from the city to simply start construction. It’s exciting ushering in an innovative industry, but these are some of the unavoidable side effects from doing so, especially in a major city.
Their center is wonderfully designed, too. It was an empty space before they got in, so they had the luxury of building everything from scratch. The end result is somewhat industrial, with beautiful artwork, and a relaxing atmosphere.
They are the first float center in Denver proper, in the heart of the RiNo – a super hip art district that prides itself on being on the cultural cutting edge. It’s a good fit for a float center – especially one run by Paul and Heather. While they have a mortgage and kids, they thrive in a unique environment and love getting a taste of the nightlife.
Travelling to a Little Float History…
Number of tanks: 3
Years in operation: 12
Tactical Takeaway: Live life on your own terms.
Other services: Massage, acupuncture, sauna, body wraps, facials, microdermabrasion, waxing, chemical peels, and others!
A New Spirit is the longest running float center in Colorado, opening in 2004 when floating was dead or dying almost everywhere else. Many of the other centers we’ve seen have credited A New Spirit with introducing them to floating.
Andrea had an interesting journey towards opening her center. Shortly after leaving college, she decided to backpack around Europe, which is how she found floating. Between the backpacking, partying and floating, she returned with a drastically different worldview. She briefly thought about finding a job in her field of study, but decided she hated the thought of working for anyone. Instead, she decided she wanted to – as she puts it – “infiltrate the spa world”. She hates the traditional stereotype of spas where everything is bland and sterile. She wanted to open a place that was dynamic and inviting. A place people would want to hang out.
She has had float tanks from the day she opened, but the layout is quite different from when she first started. She changed locations about a year and a half ago now and is now the proud owner of the building she’s in. Prior to that, her float rooms weren’t separated, so floaters would sometimes have to walk past one float tank to get to another.
Her new location is right next to the very scenic Sloan’s Lake park, so it’s possible to step out her door and just wander down to the water. Legend has it, some never return to their cars or corporate lives, instead preferring the natural world found beneath the inviting aqua pura.
Outta This World…
Steven Skalkowski has a bit of an intimidating presence when you first meet him. He’s a bodybuilder and looks like he tears phonebooks in half in his spare time (as a side note, both Ashkahn and Graham are expert phone-book-tearers-in-halfers). But, if you sit in a room with him for five minutes, it quickly becomes clear that he’s a genuinely kind person who just happens to be able to bench press a small car.
Steven started Astral two years ago just outside of Denver in Parker, Colorado. At that time, there weren’t many float centers and no one had yet opened a center larger than just a couple of tanks, so he took it upon himself. For him, floating has been a journey of mental enlightenment, coupled with physical well-being, and he sees the mindfulness that comes from floating as something that can benefit people from all walks of life.
Though he got into it for the physical benefits, he was not expecting to encounter so many life changing stories from his eventual customers. The people he’s encountered running his center have ranged from the young Joe Rogan crowd to fibromyalgia patients looking for pain relief. While Steven is interested in working with athletes, the opportunity to help people with chronic illnesses has really opened his eyes to the power of the tank.
Steven is fascinated by the research coming out about floating and is eager to share that with his clients. It amazes him that more people don’t know about floating, and he sees a direct correlation between the lack of awareness and the lack of research available.
Issue # 22 is coming…
That’s all for Denver, a city steeped in float memories. What was really surprising was the average age of float centers out here, which is much older than many of the other cities we’ve visited so far. It makes total sense, too: Denver is that kind of place where people are just a bit more open to new experiences.
From here we travel south to Colorado Springs before weaving through Utah, Idaho and Montana. There’s a lot of ground to cover between all these float centers, but luckily, the views are incredible!
Until the next issue…