Floatopia Deflated?

Jim Grant

The days of the so-called “Floatopia” parties could be numbered in San Diego.

Soon thousands may be forced to take the air out of their floating devices, as the city considers closing a loophole that technically allows people to drink alcohol while in the water.

Although drinking on the beach is straight out prohibited, the law doesn’t say anything about consuming alcohol in the water.

For months, thousands of young adults have taken advantage of this loophole by organizing massive parties where the main attraction is drinking alcohol while floating on mats and rafts. 

San Diego Police and lifeguards say those parties are a serious safety concern.

“The problem with these parties is that they are inherently dangerous,” said Chief Lifeguard Rick Wurtz. “Anytime people get in the water and consume alcohol and swim or get in rafts, it creates a very dangerous situation.”

San Diego Police and lifeguards are hoping the city will close that loophole by changing the wording of the municipal code.

“[The goal is] to make it illegal for somebody to consume alcohol while swimming or floating on mats and so fourth,” says Wurtz.
Not everyone thinks this proposal is good idea.

Mission Beach resident, Paul Evans, thinks the beach booze ban has triggered a serious backlash that may only get worse as more regulations are added.

“With more laws there are more loopholes,” says Evans, a father of two young children.  “If they close that loophole people will figure out a way to get around that one.”

So far, four “Floatopia” parties have taken place in San Diego. During the last two, lifeguards handled over 50 rescues. Several partygoers also had to be hospitalized. But Wurtz says the problems don’t end there.

“It has an impact on the environment,” add the Chief. “Some of the things that lifeguards have seen are large numbers of cans and other debris that are left in the water.”

The price tag for the last two Floatopia parties cost the city about $20,000. Since these invitations are sent through Facebook, no one particular organizer is held accountable. The city is then forced to foot the bill for the extra security it provides during those events. 

But the main concern is safety. Wurtz argues drinking while in the water is a combination that spells trouble.

"One of my supervisors shared a story of about a person who had consumed so much alcohol, they fell down in very shallow water," recalls Wurtz. "But they were so intoxicated they could barely lift themselves up out of the water."

The city’s Public Safety Committee will listen to the recommendation of San Diego Police and lifeguards on Wednesday June 30.

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