We Made it to the Float Capital of the World!
Vancouver is the largest metropolitan area in Canada, and third largest on the West Coast. It’s a major hub for international trade, with one of the largest ports in the world, giving it a large migrant population, mainly from Asia, the Middle East, and Australia. It’s also been a long-time home to the Canadian film industry, and has even been nicknamed “North Hollywood.” Dozens of film and television productions from major studios film here every year.
Vancouver is very much an international city. It has large boroughs dedicated to varying cultures, including one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. The society here is more receptive to new ideas, always looking for the next big thing; it’s not surprising that floating has blown up in Vancouver as much as it has.
In the last 3 years, 10 float centers have opened up, most of them being larger 4–6 tank centers. The really interesting thing is how they all opened within the same short amount of time about 1 ½ to 2 years ago, within months of each other.
Population: ~2.4 million in the surrounding area
Number of float centers: 12
Known for: Often called the most beautiful city in the world, one of the largest port cities in the world, most densely populated city in Canada.
More Metta Than the Front Page of Reddit…
Number of tanks: 7
Years in operation: 2
Tactical Takeaway: Doing something completely different doesn’t mean you have to give up on your passions.
Other services: Infrared sauna, yoga, thai/shiatsu massage
Prior to embarking on her salty journey, Nicole – owner of Metta³ – was a bit of a free spirit. She was initially drawn to Vancouver to attend film school and study acting. Most actors have a backup plan, hers was to simply travel and teach yoga, something that she’s long been passionate about.
She floated for the first time at Float House back when they had a single 5-tank location. She came out of the tank in disbelief: how could this be a thing? She felt so good she started to wonder if this was, in fact, legal. So she began researching it, found the Conference, and came out in 2013. With that experience, she opened herself up to a whole world of possibilities. When she came back to Vancouver, she opened up the second float center in town.
For a time, her 7-tank float spa was the largest center in North America! She lost that title once Float House expanding to 9 tanks (which was beaten this last year when Just Float opened in Pasadena). Metta³ is beautiful and spacious. There are long, private hallways, an infrared sauna, and even a library in the post-float lounge. Nicole still teaches yoga but, now, she gets to run classes in the back room of her float shop.
Searching for Float Purity…
Coy opened up Pure Float after coming out to our Apprenticeship just about 2 years ago. He’s made the trip down to Portland a couple of times since, but we suspect that he’s coming mainly for the Thai food.
Pure Float has a very sleek and elegant design with a mesmerizing light fixture above their reception area. Coy decided on going with all Ocean Float Rooms for his tanks, and he’s been incredibly happy with them. Along with his five Neurospas, he’s cultivated a den of relaxation in the otherwise very busy downtown of Vancouver.
Coy also offers a somewhat unusual service at his center: Watsu massage. For those unfamiliar, it’s a type of therapy that combines shiatsu, joint therapy, and muscle stretching, while the patient floats in warm water. Normally, watsu is performed in a large pool and the practitioner holds the client up but, in the float tank, the patient is so buoyant that it frees up the masseuse more to focus. It’ll be interesting to see if it eventually becomes a more popular pairing.
Yaletown is Float-town…
Number of tanks: 3
Years in operation: 2
Tactical Takeaway: Reach out to your neighbors, they’re your best advocates. Even better if you can return the favor.
Other services: Just floating
Float Yaletown is located on the second story of a richly developed complex next to waxing boutiques, yoga studios, and fitness centers. Float Yaletown has a fashionable white-on-white color scheme with beautiful stone tiles. Coming up the stairs, you already feel like you’re floating, walking into the clouds.
Yaletown, itself, has experienced massive redevelopment in the past few years and has since become the home of the city’s hip urban neighborhood for 20-somethings with high paying jobs. In addition to the nightlife, with bars and trendy restaurants, it also has what seems like the highest density of yoga studios in the city.
Float Yaletown has built its business around working with these studios: giveaways, community events, and general cross-promotion have all been huge helps for them. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, as there seems to be a lot of crossover between their customer base.
The Big Guys in Town…
Float House is the big guy in town. They’re the largest float franchise operating in Canada and were the first major commercial float center to open in Vancouver. They now have five locations in B.C. with another two opening later this year. We got to visit their original location (their 9-tank center in Gastown) and two others in the Vancouver area: Float House Kitsalano and their newest location, Float Surrey.
Mike and Andy Zaremba have become icons in the float industry, frequently speaking about their experiences and how they’d like to see the industry grow. Being the heads of a multi–location franchise gives them a broader view of floating as a whole, and they try to use that to be effective spokespeople for it. They’ve been frequent speakers at the Float Conference, have been interviewed on dozens of media outlets over the years, and continually dedicate themselves to promoting floating as a whole.
The Zarembas are ambitious brothers who collect new projects like Derek Wyatt collects Pokémon (a habit that actually reminds me of two other float center owners I know – the projects, not the Pokémon). Within a year of opening their first center they had expanded from 5 to 9 tanks and opened their second location. One result of their rapid expansion and excellent branding is that the common vernacular in Vancouver for “a float center” is “a float house”.
One of those projects is their own podcast called Vancouver Real, where they tackle topics from alternative wellness and psychedelic research to creating one’s own religion. They have a recording studio at Float House Gastown, so customers can actually watch them record their podcast before or after their floats.
Mike and Andy want to make sure that the float community develops in a healthy way, and are concerned about some of the short term marketing strategies of the float centers in town. To combat this, they partnered up with Nick Janicki of True Rest to collaborate on the social media campaign #whywefloat, which they co-presented on at the 2015 Conference.
As always, it was a pleasure getting to see The Zarembas. As long time float center friends, it’s kind of been like watching a brother, who is also a seabird, grow up and spread their wings into the wide, salty world.
Our First Floatel!
Puriin is the newest float center in Vancouver, opening their doors earlier this year. They’ve set themselves apart from the other centers in town pretty quickly: in fact, they are so different that they’ve earned two firsts from centers we’ve visited on Float Tour.
- They are the first float center that we know of to open in a hotel. We’ve always thought that it’d be a great pairing – floating and travel always seem to go well together. Plus, saying Floatel is really fun.
- They are the first float center we stopped by to pair with colon hydrotherapy as a service. Combining these two services together was a bit of a surprise, but it seems to be working well for them.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet the owners of the center while we were there, but we did get to see their beautiful space inside the Marriott in downtown Vancouver. Best of luck to them and their team!
It’s a bit like Floating in the Alps
Hälsa is the Swedish word for “Health”, which tells you a lot about the kind of place that Christian wanted to build: a healing spa in the European tradition. A sanctuary where tired, overstressed people can take the time they need to rejuvenate themselves.
Hälsa is another center whose reputation preceded it. Almost everyone we spoke to on the way to Vancouver told us we had to check them out. It really does live up to the hype: with it’s wooden slatted hallway and swedish furniture, Hälsa is reminiscent of a ski lodge in the Alps. The hallways have been painstakingly lined with small wooden beams that wrap around the entire area. Their post-float lounge has large open windows that take in the sprawling cityscape and the mountains beyond. It’s a cozy environment that really does take you away from the sometimes-overwhelming world that it’s embedded in.
The Salt Must Flow…
Number of tanks: 3
Years in operation: 2
Tactical Takeaway: As the industry grows, there will be more and more people who have the serendipitous introduction to floating by purchasing a pre-built center.
Other services: halotherapy bed, halotherapy rooms
Salt Wellness Center just reopened after changing hands in ownership. The new owners, Ramon and Tamsin Clarke, were in the market to purchase a fitness spa, but found a float center instead. They were completely new to floating, having been unfamiliar with it before getting the place, and now (unsurprisingly) they’re hooked! They’re so excited to be be involved in this growing industry. They had very little idea what to expect when purchasing their center – imagine their surprise when they found the float community.
Salt is more than just floating, and, true to their name, they also offer halotherapy in a salt bed or salt room, where you can breathe in salt crystals in the salt air, which boasts amazing health benefits for the respiratory system. Even though the owners are new to the “float game” as it were, they are incredibly honored to be a part of it.
Heading South for Some Sensa-ry Deprivation…
Our last stop in Canada. We met Carolina and Eddie at Sensa as we were headed through town. We didn’t make it until after they closed, but they were generous enough to stay late for us. We’re glad they did – they were such kind and inviting people, we quickly lost track of time hanging out with them, driving late into the night when we eventually got back on the road (Eddie almost hopped on Float Tour with us for the last leg, but talked himself out of it at the last minute).
This couple has gone on an amazing journey to find floating. They are both from Colombia and moved to Canada late in life, eager for new opportunities. It was Carolina’s mother, actually, who recommended opening a spa in Canada with “something different.” Through some research, they came across floating and decided to open up. They’ve loved every minute of it. Eddie focuses on maintenance of their 4 tanks and taking care of the water sanitation, while Carolina runs the day–to–day and manages the spa.
They’re technically located in White Rock, B.C., which is home to a vast retirement community. They’ve found that floating has been extremely helpful for retirees who usually suffer some chronic pain or other acute health problems. The Neurospa is another fantastic service for this reason. Both are giving access to relief that might otherwise be unavailable to some of the people who need it the most.
Thank you both for the kindness and hospitality! Hopefully you’ll be able to join us on the next Float Tour!
Just two more posts left…
That wraps up Canada. Vancouver, as I said before, is simply a breathtaking city. It’s also one of the few places that we’ve visited that I knew pretty well. I came out here for school in 2007 to 2008, and it’s amazing how much the city has changed in some ways, while being immutable in others.
To everyone we visited: thank you! Vancouver feels like a second home to me. Now more so than ever before. I can’t wait to be back.
See you in Issue #27…