Back in America for the Last Time
Our northern neighbor – a sister city, of sorts – Seattle is the largest metropolitan area in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the land of Microsoft and Kurt Cobain, and the culture here embraces both simultaneously. It’s tech business professional in the front and rock n’ roll grunge in the back. This blend creates a perfect storm of high energy business life and high energy nightlife, making relaxation a valuable commodity. Floating helps fill the void left by nightmarish traffic and overcrowded restaurants.
Given that it’s so close to home, the float centers in Seattle are a lot more familiar to us. Our visits here were more like a high school reunion than they were like the first day of school. During some of our visits, we were picking up conversations right where we left them.
We actually ended up heading back to Portland before making it up to Seattle: Graham and Ashkahn had a hard deadline for an apprenticeship they were running in Portland, and I hadn’t seen my wife in three months. So, we ended up doubling back up north after a couple days respite in Stumptown.
Population: 3.7 million in the surrounding area
Number of float centers: 10
Known for: Home of Starbucks, Microsoft, and Kurt Cobain
Found the Float Center in Olympia!
Number of tanks: 2
Years in operation: 3
Tactical Takeaway: Cultivate your space and let it grow organically.
Other services: Energy Counseling, Massage, Infrared sauna, cranial sacral therapy, body scrubs, manufacturing
Located in Olympia, about an hour south of Seattle, Oly Float was our first stop on our way up to Seattle. It has been in operation for 3 years now and takes pride in its role of building the float community. Mike and Kristen Redman, along with CJ Russo, started Oly Float together as part of the collective, The Soul Space, where they have a team of wellness professionals intent on building a community.
One such member is Dan Larsen – an old friend of Float On’s. He’s been a part of the industry for years, presenting at the Float Conference and is one of the admins for the Float Facilitators facebook group – a hub of news, information, and sometimes gossip in the float industry.
Dan is practical and down to earth. Prior to finding floating, he spent years in the corporate healthcare world, taking in the good and the bad. About 6 years ago, he left that life and adopted a more direct approach to healing, starting Intuitive Being, which integrates Applied Kinesiology with counseling. The Soul Space welcomed him with open arms and he’s been there ever since.
Oly Float has a vat filtration system built into the basement directly below the float tanks, letting gravity drain the water into their vat before they filter it and pump it back up into the tanks. This allows 100% of the float tank water to be filtered in less time than a typical filtration system. The space requirements for a system like this can often be prohibitive for other centers, but Oly Float was able to implement it by going through their floors into their lower level.
First Stop in Tacoma
Kriss and Alex are long-time friends who found floating through very different paths. Kriss was traveling overseas and injured his back, putting him out of work and into a slow and painful physical therapy process. It was actually his brother that recommended floating to him, helping him with the pain and expediting his recovery. Alex, on the other hand, has always been interested in meditation and consciousness expansion. He found a wonderful symbiosis of those two worlds in floating, allowing him to find an escape from the stresses of everyday life. Both of their experiences proved to them that floating needed to be shared with more people. They then asked themselves, “why not?” A dangerous question, whose only answer was to open up Northwest Float Center.
They’ve dedicated a lot of time to making a friendly, open center that feels welcoming. Their spacious lobby has large, inviting windows where you can clearly see their display shelf of dozens of salt lamps (likely visible from space when they’re all turned on).
Kriss and Alex ran into an interesting hurdle with their build-out when their health department required that they attach two float tanks to their filtration system, so each pair of float tanks has to be run at the same time. We haven’t seen this required anywhere else, and it seems to just be another one of those hiccups from regulating a relatively unknown industry.
3 years in, they’ve truly helped to build up their community. They love floating and are dedicated to making sure that Tacoma gets to experience it properly. Since we’re so close, we see them more often than a lot of other center owners, both down in Portland for the Conference and up in Tacoma when we’re passing through. Thanks, as always, for the hospitality guys! And best of luck with your latest endeavors!
Float Seattle just opened their Bellevue location in 2015, but the original Float Seattle Location opened in 2012, making it the first dedicated float center in Seattle since the 1990s. Their Bellevue location is at the base of an apartment building, offering sweet deals on floating to the people who live there. Both of their locations have an industrial-chic look, with large concrete walls, steel piping shelves, and living moss walls. An undeniably cool, distinctly Seattle style.
Float Seattle was started by Sean McCormick. He’s developed a team that strives to do things a little differently, in the company and in life: Aaron X, their manager, hosts a Snapchat cooking show; Annie brews her own potions; Mahria is into method acting (which is actually how she found floating!). They treat each other more like family than coworkers, which they feel cultivates a more welcoming community and atmosphere. Plus, it’s just more enjoyable that way.
This kind of atmosphere allows them to create new opportunities like hosting the Float Journey, a float experience guided by sound. Musician Masaru Higasa plays live music during the float as a way to create a relaxing internal jaunt.
Float for Life!
Brandon DeCuir of Life Float got his start in Seattle in the tech world. Working long hours in stress-fueled environments, he, just like all his colleagues, was constantly plugged in. His mind felt like it was on overdrive and he couldn’t turn off. He tried to develop a consistent meditation practice, but his environment was far from accommodating. He would shift between restlessness and exhaustion, never finding that peaceful middle ground.
It wasn’t until he traveled to Germany that he found floating. Once he did, he realized that he had discovered the serenity he had been searching for. Brandon resolved pretty much instantly to bring this back to Seattle and share it there.
He opened Life Float last November, but he’s been actively involved in the float community for several years. His facility is top notch; he has 5 custom built float tanks with full bathrooms and showers in each room. Each of his tanks drain into their own individual vat system, allowing him to completely filter a tank in five minutes. The pump room that houses all of the filtration is one of the most advanced we’ve seen, and was custom designed by Brandon himself.
How a Caterpillar Becomes a Beautiful Butterfly
This beautiful little center is like a relaxing retreat, although starting up has been anything but relaxing for Genevieve. Shortly after opening her doors, she got pregnant and immediately had severe complications. She was bedridden for 9 months, and coming back after that was like starting back up all over again. She had to relearn how everything operates and catch up on all the changes that happened while she was away.
Cocoon actively creates a conversation with its clients. They engage on a one-on-one level with their floaters, asking them to take care when coming out of the tank to towel off before stepping into the shower, preventing salt build up outside of the tank. The results speak for themselves. Even after two years they have no salt damage on the walls or floors, making them one of the only centers we visited that had been open this long without showing at least some signs of saliferous decay.
We really appreciate Genevieve taking the time to visit with us and tell her story.
The Unlimited Power of Floating!
One of the only float franchises in the US, Urban Float has 3 locations in the Seattle area along with their latest opening in Vancouver, right across the river from Portland! Their first location opened downtown on Fremont three years ago, and since then, they’ve grown to expand to the rest of the Seattle market.
Urban Float has helped shape the float industry in the U.S. in a big way. They’ve been the main sponsor for the Float Conference for the last two years and are the U.S. distributors of the i-sopod, giving them a finger on the pulse of the industry here.
Urban Float also offers something that we haven’t seen at any other float center: an unlimited float membership. The floats are available at any of their locations, and the higher grade memberships are shareable. Some people do come in and float everyday, but most people aren’t out to game the system. They see it as a net positive, since it encourages people to float as much as possible which, we agree, is pretty cool.
Do U Float?
When we got to U Float we felt right at home. It has a storefront on a major downtown street in Auburn. The lobby/reception area had a float tank in it (the most recent Escape Pod Tank: Aphelion), waiting to be installed . This is the first time we’ve seen one of the Aphelion’s in the wild, which is pretty cool. Further in, we could see that part of the shop was under construction as they got their new float room ready. It didn’t even have a door on it yet, and it reminded us of the late nights tearing down walls and reconstructing them back when we were expanding to 6 rooms. It was chaotic, messy, and lots of fun… in retrospect.
Phil McGraw spent 15 years in construction prior to opening his float center and a brief stint in real estate. As a result, when it came to securing a location and building out a center, he had the experience well in hand to do it himself.
He floated for the first time to deal with the chronic back pain from years of manual labor and was amazed at how good he felt afterwards. His plan was always to open his own business, but he was on the fence about opening a float center, so he decided to go to the Conference to scope things out. It wound up changing his life. Listening to the speakers and getting to meet other people going through the exact same thing helped solidify his plans.
Now, it’s three years in and he couldn’t imagine going back: he’s made new friends in the city, has been able to introduce tons of people to floating, and is finally installing his third tank! Phil, it was great seeing you and your center. We can’t wait to hear more salty stories when you come visit us next.
Looping Back to Tacoma…
We ended up, again, in Tacoma and visited the OTHER float center there – Uncharted Waters. They’re actually just down the street from Northwest Float Center, a somewhat awkward relationship for most businesses, but since they’re float centers, it’s only helped get more people in the tanks as awareness goes up around town. Uncharted Waters is an incredible space, too. They have a sizable lounge they rent out for events and even hold CPR training classes there.
Jonathan found floating through his wife, Sarah. She was a Float On regular when they lived in Portland, so we’ve had the privilege of watching his journey all along the way. It’s been great to watch as his center develops and he hones in on what makes the experience unique for him. Sarah is a military veteran and has experienced first hand how powerful a tool floating can be for PTSD. She’s now an iREST Yoga Nidra teacher and combines that with floating to help guide people towards their own recovery.
Aside from healing people’s minds and bodies, Jonathan and Sarah love having their own business and being a part of the community.
Issue #27 is finished…
That brings our Seattle adventure to a close. Many of these centers we are familiar with, and some we’ve even known since before they started up, but it’s rare for us to get to see their centers in person. This stop marks our end to life on the road – our final post sets us back in Portland where we’ll visit the other centers there before, ending, finally, at Float On.
A very special thank you to The Minister Winchester, who has taken care of us these three long months. She had to endure a lot of abuse, and carried us through everything flawlessly. Soon, she’ll be sent to a new home, as a single Float Tour simply cannot sate her need for travel for very long. May she ride the winds into the sunset, trouble ever at her back, and friends always close by.
Our last post will bring us back home, and we’ll offer a sort of post-mortem on the trip as a whole. Thank you all for following this amazing journey.