Visiting 10 float centers in the EU and one in US

I am going to describe my floating experiences and lessons learned at 10+ centers in the US and the EU, discussing the issues seen and some of the major factors that may influence the quality of floats.

So far I’ve visited one in the US, a few in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Lithuania. Most importantly, I found that people in float industry are very friendly and helpful. I enjoyed having long chats with various float center owners discussing both benefits of floating and the peculiarities of building a quality float center.

At first, it may seem that building a good float center is as simple as installing a few hot tubs with salt water. However, after diving deeper into the details it turns out that it is extremely hard to build an impeccable float center. Of those I’ve seen in Europe, even the most luxurious ones had some – perhaps minor – issues.

My First Float at the World’s Largest Float Center

My first acquaintance with floating was accidental. In early 2016, I was visiting a friend in the Los Angeles, CA area and on my last day we had a conversation about floating, which had been mentioned in the great book Surely You're Joking Mr. Feyman, and decided to try it out right there right then. Without even realizing, we chose the world’s largest float center. It was justfloat.com which has 11 float rooms and good quality.

 

Just float, LA area, USA

My experience was pleasant, however, it did take some time for me to relax. My friend, though, was able to relax so deeply that she was running around the beautiful Huntington Gardens and smelling the roses shortly after! It did look like floating erased the stress caused by pursuing a Ph.D at Caltech.

 

Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, USA

This boosted my interest in floating and 1 year on I am taking part in the construction of a new float center in Vilnius!

Visiting 10 Float Centers in Europe

First, it’s important to keep in mind that the floating experiences are very individual, being influenced by your mental state before you enter the tank. Still, technical perfection at a float center helps here.

To date, I’ve visited quite a few float centers in Western Europe (including luxury ones). Unfortunately, quite a few of them did provide a really enjoyable experience, IMHO, due to seemingly minor, but important technical issues that I’ll discuss later.

The really enjoyable floats

Unexpectedly, the only float centers which provided a really enjoyable float were the relatively simple ones – one in Hasselt, Belgium and one in Luzern, Switzerland. They have a Restingwell Spirit floatation tank, which is special for just the right spaciousness, and heated ventilated air. This is the same kind of float tank that we gonna have at our float center.

after a joyful float inside a Restingwell tank, at “The Great Boost” in Belgium

The other quite enjoyable float I had was at urbains.ch in Martigny, Switzerland. They have an enclosed Floataway’s Floataround which basically is an expensive round pool. Its roundness is special – it is extremely easy for the floater to stay centered, instead of bumping oneself to the sides. This is due to reflections of tiny waves created by floaters’ breathing. So this is very comfortable, especially for first-time floaters. Still, I noticed a few tiny issues there: no sound isolation and the changing room was slightly cold, so it took a ten or more minutes for the air above the pool to get heated to the optimal temperature.

the Floataway “Floataround”

In spring 2017, I visited the Floatworks in London, which is usually fully booked for a week in advance. It had a nice ambiance, and pretty nicely tuned tanks, if it wasn’t for issues with sound insulation (more about this below), I would have named it as one of the very best in Europe.

Chill out lounge at Floatworks with some nice teas and books

The most common issues

I’ve seen many float centers unable to take care of the basic, but important details like the temperature of air and saltwater, and light/sound insulation. This is not always easy to fix, but if strongly ignored, the costly float tank installations may perform not much better than just a regular hot SPA bath.

Too hot saltwater

  • A nicely installed open-pool in Zurich, Switzerland where I paid ~100 Euro for 1h float, had water at ~36C, so I got a very serious headache from that! The owner said they had a few complain feeling getting cold, so they simply bumped the temperature up… close to a dangerous level (where body overheating is slightly possible)!
  • at a few more centers, I and a few other users complained slightly too hot salt water (they’d use 35-35.5C) or stuffy air. However, other floaters were just perfectly fine with it – more about this later…

Too cold air or salt water

  • an Open Pool installed in Germany had air which was way too cold (~25C, I could feel salt getting crystallized on my belly, which did hurt ! )
  • in Lithuania, room air was slightly too cold, so the salt was crystallizing a bit in the beginning of the float

Lack of sound isolation

I think, in Europe, I still didn’t see a single float center which would do a completely proper sound isolation (vibration pads, insulating walls), but the ones which were situated in a rather silent area were OK with just a simple rubber mat laying underneath the float tank.

For example, the Floatworks in London, which seemed to be the best European float center I’ve seen so far in terms of vibe/services/experience, was short in terms of sound insulation – I could hear ventilation and footsteps. But the rest was nice!

Discussion: water temperature

A common problem seemed to be the inability to handle the considerable differences in preferred water temperatures among floaters, however, this is a pretty hard problem solve.

A rather bad solution is to set the water temperature on the high end:

There are few more variables to take into account, e.g. air temperature and humidity, making this a rather complex issue.

A pretty good solution is to set the water & air temperature on the lower end (~34.2C) and tell clients not to move, so their bodies create a thin layer of warm water around them. As a bonus not moving often results in better float experiences! Another possibility is heating the air when someone gets cold, e.g. as the Samadhi Floater Comfort System does.
To read more about float tank temperatures, you may check out this interesting article written by the organizers of the Float Conference.

Short review of Float centers I’ve visited

My subjective experiences:

  1. Belgium, Hasselt www.thegreatboost.be/
    • Despite being installed inside a part of a living apartment, only partially designed for floating, it provided a wonderful float experience!
    • It has Restingwell tanks (just like ours), with ventilated heated air!
  2. USA, L.A. area www.justfloat.com/
    • the world’s largest float center (see above)
    • nice overall experience – good service, clean, good soundproofing, etc
  3. Switzerland, Luzern https://www.floating-tank.com/
    • very nice float experience in a Restingwell tank
  4. UK, London UK www.floatworks.com
    • nice experience in general: nice room furnishing, a cozy chill out room, comfortable i-sopod tanks
    • a big disadvantage was a bad sound insulation – I could loudly hear footsteps and ventilation when floating; water was just slightly too hot for me (but this is individual).
  5. Switzerland, Martigny https://www.urbains.ch/
    • tried an enclosed Floataround (round pool): nice experience; very easy to center oneself; room air slightly too cold, but got better around the end of the session. weak sound insulation
  6. Lithuania, Vilnius, www.onlygoodvibes.lt
    • it opened in late-2016, has 2 beautiful Dreampods, simple but nice furnishing
  7. Lithuania, Kaunas http://floatlotus.lt/
    • even if the shower is rather distant from their float tank, the overall experience is pleasant
    • they also offer a complimentary massage with essential oils
  8. Lithuania, Vilnius, www.zenspa.lt
    • they successfully rebranded the very first float center in Vilnius (which was improperly managed), and provide some interesting social post-float activities
    • interesting fact: it seems, they’re quite able to compensate for the too cold air by using a warmer water
  9. Germany, Hannover www.float.de
    • water too hot, some light visible; nicely furnished, pleasant service
  10. Switzerland, Zurich http://www.float-schweiz.ch
    • Nicely furnished open pool rooms.
    • Didn’t enjoy the float at all (water way too hot for me – got a headache afterward).
  11. A center in Germany
    • The open pool I tried worked quite badly due to installation issues: air too cold (salt crystallized), light, noise. Though, the owner was nice 😉
    • IMHO, the “Open Pool for Two” seemed slightly too wide to reach the sides for centering, and it was hard to reach control buttons placed near to where is one’s head.

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