Floatopia: Thousands of bikini-clad students, from here and seemingly everywhere else on Earth, pounding beers unabashedly. Sounds like the ultimate beach party. It’s no surprise that this event is one that has earned notoriety among party lovin’ students, local police, environmentalists and even Santa Barbara politicians. This event is one of a kind — a party with no real planner and no required RSVP. Rather, in order to attend you just need to be sober enough to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and make your way to the beach — and hopefully not drown.
To many this seems like heaven on earth, but to others it resembles hell. The next day, Isla Vista beaches and those that attended Floatopia look exactly the same: completely disheveled and like they’ve been hit by a freight train. I’m not going to be a hypocrite, and I’m absolutely never one to take the high road. I didn’t steer clear of the first Floatopia because I’m a staunch environmentalist or fearful of the impact I could have on the helpless surf perch. I didn’t go, because I felt like shit from drinking until the wee hours the night before. I would have loved to go, but instead I laid in bed until 5 p.m. with a bottle of Advil in one hand and a gallon of water in the other. (Advil is the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast).
I went a month knowing nothing about Floatopia other than it was a great time. Yesterday, however, I saw a video that was taken during the cleanup of Floatopia, and I felt the most disgusted I’ve felt since being shown a Holocaust video in high school. The piles of trash along the shoreline looked hideous, and with cigarette butts and beer cans strewn across the sand, I almost expected a crying Indian to step into the frame. The carnage that Floatopia left was incredible, but college students love drinking and being scantily clad more than anything, and I doubt that even an Indian from a 1970s public service announcement could change that.
As much as we all appreciate a good party, those of us that call the ocean our playground should know that no one likes the kid who leaves a mess in the sandbox. I love drinking on the beach, and I most certainly disagree with any possibly permanent ban on doing such, but I think that deep down we all realize that Floatopia is a little too much. As I write this, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is preparing to vote on the emergency ordinance to ban alcohol on our beaches, and as you are reading this they likely have already done so. But whether they have or have not banned alcohol on the beaches, if you had been there the day after the first Floatopia, you might not feel like the notorious beach party was everything you had imagined anyway. If you paddled out for a session at Backyards the day after Floatopia you may or may not have gotten a good wave, but what is certain is that you would have smelled like an ashtray. If you swallowed any water you got a buzz from the ocean’s recently raised alcohol content, comparable to many popular light beers.
Even if drinking weren’t banned on Isla Vista beaches, I still would not be attending Floatopia 2. But settle down now; I still don’t have a moral compass. I’m just going home for Mother’s Day.