Hundreds of people descended upon the beach below the 6500 block of Del Playa Drive on Saturday to participate in Floatopia, Isla Vista’s very own bleary-eyed vision of utopia.
In what is fast becoming a UCSB tradition, the day was a celebration of hedonism – the beach was blanketed in students engaging in drinking, dancing and socializing. Attendees brave or drunk enough to face the cold water brought all conceivable types of floatation devices and took to the ocean, letting the current carry them along, chanting “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole! Gauchos!” Inflatable pools, intertubes, small boats and homemade rafts complete with flags for sails were strewn along the coast.
On shore, stereo systems and beer pong tables were set up amidst a crowd of almost 1,000 people. Despite concerns of rain and cold weather, the sun broke through the early morning clouds, ensuring an impressive turnout for the event.
There was a scare, however, at 3:28 p.m., when the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. received a 9-1-1 call for an allegedly drowning swimmer, and dispatched two engines and a truck to DP. Fire Captain Vince Agapito said that the report changed and evolved as the beach was scoured and witnesses were interviewed, but ultimately no injury was reported.
“The first report was a possible drowning,” Agapito said. “We determined that was not the case. What we determined after 30 minutes of searching was that a person had been having difficulty in the water, but walked home. At first, it was reported that she was dragged into a house. We got all kinds of reports; we don’t know which are true.”
Fourth-year math and art studio major Alex Wasbin created and publicized the Floatopia event on Facebook, where over 4,000 people confirmed their attendance. Wasbin – who told the Daily Nexus last year that the event was created by engineering students who have since graduated – said that the event’s origins date much farther back.
“Floatopia began with the Vikings in the late eighth century, and has been passed along in strict lineage through generations until more recently, [when] it was bestowed upon us Isla Vistans,” Wasbin wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “We try to keep the event as historically accurate and culturally sensitive as possible.”
Despite the somewhat uncertain circumstances of the event’s origins, participants were enthusiastic about the tradition, and continued to arrive in droves throughout the day, many bearing a means of flotation or a supply of alcohol.
Alumni and freshmen alike joined together to celebrate openly on the beach. First-year biology major Farley Connelly said the event was positive because it brought together two fine activities: drinking and floating.
“It’s one of those things you can only do at UCSB,” Connelly said. “I don’t think at any other school you could drink beer all day and float on rafts. Floatopia takes floating and drinking to a whole different level.”
The massive turnout on the beach dwarfed that of last year’s event. Even students who had attended a Floatopia before said they were impressed with the size of this year’s crowd. Second-year business economics major Chris Fulton said that he thought this Floatopia was the best in UCSB history.
“It was so sick,” Fulton said. “So sick.”
Second-year sociology major Scott Vogelgesang said he believed that the show of students on the beach was indicative of the outlook of the school as a whole.
“It shows a lot of SB attitude,” Vogelgesang said.