That Sinking Feeling: Floatopia 2010

Floatopia started as a beach bash among friends... then the emergency room visits started

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Wednesday, Apr 7, 2010  |  Updated 1:04 PM PDT
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Party Protests Booze Ban

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Rescues, Arrests Made at Floatopia

At least 4,000 people turned out for Floatopia, drinking alcohol on rafts while drifting away from shore.
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There are inflatable rafts, music and plenty of refreshments, but Floatopia is not your typical surburban backyard pool party, as we saw in San Diego last month.

The beach bash -- as in, "Ouch, I think I bashed my head" -- near Santa Barbara has been described as a mess, unmitigated chaos, and an erotic party. And haven't we all wondered what a unmitigated messy erotic chaos party would be like?

Who knows what descriptions will be added this weekend. Santa Barbara County officials said they plan to close popular beaches near campus Saturday in an effort to deflate the chaos.

The half-mile stretch of beach just southwest of the UC-Santa Barbara campus was blanketed with floatation devices last year, when Floatopia's attendence figures inflated like an Exalibur Aqua Lounge. An estimated 4,000 people attended the event in 2008. In 2007, just 300. 

Then the social networking thing kicked in. As many as 12,000 people gathered last year in what the county parks director described as "unmitigated chaos."

Unmitigated chaos? Sure. But it is organized unmitigated chaos.

A UCSB student, Chris Par, applied to sponsor this year's event, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. The parks director called Par's application "sub-par" -- he really said that.

The Independent reported:

Among other things needed in a thorough application, (the parks director) said, were plans for liability insurance, security coordination, sewage and sanitation and trash removal. Indeed, the applicant, UCSB sophomore Chris Par, took more of an "it’ll all work out" sort of approach, planning for just two port-a-johns to service the estimated thousands of people, anticipating most people could just use the facilities at their homes. He was also counting on everyone picking up after themselves, unlike last year, when the beaches were littered with garbage following the event

And then there were the hospitalizations and arrests. Sheriff Bill Brown said 78 citations were handed out for alcohol-related crimes and there were 13 arrests last year. He said 33 party-goers were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, heat exposure and cuts.

The fun began about five years ago with just a few hundred people before turning into... whatever it is now. The county banned alcohol without a permit at Isla Vista beaches, but restricting access is something new.

"We are concerned about limiting the beach access,” Lt. Brian Olmstead of the I.V. Foot Patrol told the Independent. "But we weighed that with the public safety hazard."

Closing off the beach for Saturday's event only solves the issue for one weekend. Clayton Carlson, external vice president for local affairs of UCSB’s Associated Students, issued a news release about the response: "My office acknowledges that action needed to be taken by the County of Santa Barbara to mitigate the anticipated effects of Floatopia 2010. However, we also realize that a one-time beach closure does not provide a long-term solution to preventing unpermitted events on the beach."

In fact, it might make things even more chaotic or move the chaos to another location.

Students have suggested a beach party every weekend until the policy changes. There's also the possibility that the party might move to a different date or location -- such as the streets of Isla Vista.
 

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