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This is the introduction that I wrote for the Portland Float Conference program. I wanted to repost it here, so that all of my zany predictions for the future of floating could be recorded for all time. It also seemed like a good piece to kick off this month’s topic of ‘Past, present, and future.’

Over the years, the world’s attention and affection for float tanks has waxed and waned, but the recent surge in interest is not a crest. It is the first rippling of what will inevitably become a tremendous wave.

I’d like to use this format as an opportunity to share with you my thoughts on the current rise of floating, and where we, as a community, fit into the story.

In the past, pockets of publicity took hold, packed centers, and started an industry. In the late 80’s and 90’s, most centers quietly closed their doors, and until recently there was no swell of replacements. The most commonly cited cause for this decline is the AIDS scare, although we’ve talked to people in the industry with an array of theories.

Whatever the reason for their drop in popularity, the failure to bounce back was inevitable. If you saw an ad for a float center, or heard about floating from a friend, it was difficult to learn more. You could read Lilly, or try to find scholarly articles, but digging deeper into the subject required a high degree of effort and skill. This meant the average person was prone to depend on vague hearsay for much of their information. Floating is backed by decades of published research, but without being able to reference it, the list of benefits associated with float tanks sound very similar to the list of benefits associated with snake oil.

Accessibility of scholarly information, the expansion of news media into extreme niches, the multiplicative effect of social media, the ability to research something on your phone at lunch – the internet has provided the exoskeleton for the interest that we see growing around us. Unlike the float tank booms in the past, this interest is not dependent on geographical or temporal density. Regardless of individual successes or failures, awareness will continue to grow in aggregate. People’s stories are not dependent on a centralized news source, and when they are put into the world they exist in perpetuity. Our growth this time around is sustainable.

You can feel it. Already, Float On is less a business that we run, and more of a runaway locomotive that we’re trying frantically to keep up with. 

We are not at the beginning of this movement, but we are at the beginning of its entrance into mass consciousness. How we conduct ourselves will determine the precedent and the expectations for everyone to come, just as the atmosphere of science, kindness, and collaboration established by Dr. Lilly continues to influence us.

I hope that you enter the Portland Float Conference with the excitement and enthusiasm that I do. It is also my hope that you go into it with a similar sense of responsibility. We have a chance to work together as an industry. We have a chance to be compassionate and responsible. We have the chance to be truly great.

Floating improves our mental and physical health. It enhances our creativity and skill acquisition. It is able to show document-able improvement in chronic and acute conditions. Our power to improve the quality of life of those around us is determined almost entirely by the amount of effort we are willing to put in, and by the depth of thought that we are able to apply. We’ve accomplished amazing things already. And we’re just getting started.

Graham Talley, Co-Founder, Float On, Portland, OR

Float Tank Conference