Floating on the Surface

Last weekend, I took the plunge. I scheduled a “float” appointment. I’ve wanted to do it for years now, but never made the effort. I was never scared to do it, I just didn’t want to pay the lofty $60-70! The idea of floating is to spend 90 minutes in a tank filled with 10 inches of salt water. You’re meant to float on the top of the water and experience total sensory deprivation and relaxation.

Luckily I found a Groupon that lowered the cost to a reasonable $30. I read the Yelp reviews of the “spa” and they seemed to be split. Some customers loved the place, but others wrote harsh reviews. Most of the bad reviews had to do with pricing or saying “They made me cancel my appointment after I showed up 30 minutes late! So unprofessional!” So I took those with a grain of salt.

I took a leisurely walk to the spa on Saturday afternoon. It was nestled on a residential street and would have been easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. I walked up right as another customer did. We approached the door and saw a sign with an arrow, pointing to the house next door. So we walked next door and saw another sign with an arrow pointing to the first house! We were confused. After a bit of back and forth, we realized the arrows were instructing us to enter through the tiny gated alley in between the houses! So strange.

Once we opened the gate, it made sense. There was a nice courtyard with a pond and flowers and beautiful trees. We walked into the reception area and it was crowded. There was one woman working the front desk and she didn’t have an ounce of urgency. After about 8 minutes, it was my turn to check in. She took my ID and I filled out the waiver. She asked if I needed a towel. I said yes, and she handed me what can only be described as a dish towel.

She instructed me to wait on the bench and someone would show me to the tanks shortly. This little spa was busy! I saw 30-40 people come and go within the 15 minutes I spent waiting. Most people seemed to be using the spa pools or getting a massage. After awhile, a woman walked up and asked “Are you the floaters?” The guy sitting next to me said yes and we followed her to the tanks. I was a little concerned. The lockers where we were supposed to store our clothes were located all the way across the spa. We would have to strip down and then walk past the showers, sauna, relaxation room, and then into the float tank room. There were signs everywhere saying that it was a “Clothing Optional” spa and told people not to exhibit creepy behavior. What?!

I assumed it would be a normal spa with normal sized towels and a tank in a private room. I didn’t pack a swim suit. You’re supposed to float naked!

My float parter and I went to the lockers and he started to strip down. I turned around and played on my phone until I could tell he was finished and had left. I have no interest in seeing a strange hippie get naked! I changed and wrapped myself in the mini-towel as best as I could and scurried into the tank room. Luckily there wasn’t anyone in the sauna or showers, so it was okay.

The tank room had 2 tanks the size of large ice coolers. They were slightly separated by a large folding wall, but there still weren’t any doors for privacy! Each tank had a slanted door, similar to a cellar. My float partner insisted he have Tank #1… I’m not sure why, but that should have been my first warning sign!

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I put petroleum jelly on my cuts so the salt water wouldn’t irritate them and then jumped in.

The water was warm. Almost too warm! I climbed into the tank and shut the door behind me. It was dark and the air was human. I laid down in the water and let myself float. It was a little uncomfortable at first. The water was pushing my back into a weird arch that wasn’t natural. I tried moving my arms in different positions and felt that the “goal post” felt the best. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.

I “relaxed” for about 20 minutes before I became bored. I couldn’t fall asleep because it was so cold! The top half of my body was above water and there was a ventilation fan that continually blew cold air into the tank! I ended up shivering most of the time and resorted to swimming around to try to stay warm. I realized I could easily just exit the tank and leave… but I paid money for this! It was kind of a cool feeling to float around on the top of the water. I had about 2 feet on either side, so I gentle pushed myself back and forth across the tank.

Before I knew it, I heard the knocking on my tank door that signaled the float was over. I listened for my float partner and waiting until he exited the room before I opened my door. I quickly grabbed my towel. The spa had become a lot busier and there were several naked people showering as I walked out. I was covered in salt water and I still had to walk home, so I needed to rinse off. I pretended to read a brochure until everyone left and I could shower in peace (as peaceful as an open shower with no wall or door could be!)

Inevitably, as soon as I started to rinse off, an old lady wandered in and started showering next to me. I’m not sure why this experience felt so awkward when I’ve already been to a naked bath house in Korea. Maybe because I was a foreigner it felt new and exciting. In America, it just felt weird. I showered as quickly as possible and put my clothes on before fully drying off.

I checked out and left the spa as soon as possible. Apparently my float included a complimentary 30 minute soak in the hot tub room… but the idea of sitting in there with more naked strangers was not something I was interested in.

I don’t think I would float again, even if it was at a more private spa. I never felt fully relaxed because I was so cold. Even if it had been warm, I don’t think I would have experienced the full sensory deprivation. My tank had flashing lights that reflected off the water and I could hear footsteps whenever anyone walked on the floor above us.

I would recommend floating if you want a unique experience, but definitely go in with low expectations!

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