The Big Idea: A Weightless Trend on the Rise

Ironically, it was a shared thirst for doing new things that led Louise and her husband Bob Van Engelsdorp to discover the life-changing benefits of quite simply, just doing nothing.

Longtime Whistler and Pemberton residents, Louise and Bob had been searching for the right entrepreneurial opportunity to start their own local business and they found it on a trip to Portland when they first encountered flotation therapy.

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After researching the trend, they quickly realized floating was the business for them (and their community). They dived right in, founding West Coast Float and opening their doors on Christmas Eve last year. On a mission to get people floating, Louise and Bob are introducing a town fuelled by activity and adrenaline to the rewards of stillness and solitude inside their float pods.

Knowledge sharing

Bonds in the floating industry run deep, so when Louise and Bob decided to dip their toes into the biz they found a supportive network of established centres eager to share the science and professional standards of this sophisticated water world. An apprenticeship in Portland gave them hands-on operations experience from water testing to sound insulation and pod technology.

Louise praises the pay-it-forward nature of their industry and this supportive knowledge sharing as a key to their successful start. Like their mentors, West Coast Float now shows their gratitude by passing on their knowledge. Since opening, West Coast Float has hosted apprenticeships for two new Canadian operations.

Creating a community vibe

When Louise and Bob first found flotation therapy, they were struck by its universal appeal. Young and old, hipsters and businessmen, the variety of loyal patrons was surprising and something they felt was a huge asset. While a 90- minute float takes place in a private pod with complete sensory deprivation, their commitment to a sense of community at their centre means the overall experience is warm and inviting for anyone. Relaxing post-float with a cup of tea, a little reading or a chat to discuss float experiences is an enjoyable part of a visit.

In an effort to build their reputation as a social space, West Coast Float can also host special events. Friendships formed while hosting a tech event resulted in the Bitcoin ATM now located in the shop and they have had success hosting artist showcases in the space, especially given the connection between art and flotation therapy, which lists one of its key benefits as awakening greater creativity and artistic expression.

Taking time to rest

While flotation therapy may be praised as an effective mental escape from a stressful world, it offers healing on multiple levels that are especially appealing in a resort filled with athletic locals and visitors whose bodies can really benefit from taking time out for rest and therapeutic healing. 

Benefits reported by research on flotation therapy include deep muscle relaxation, faster muscle healing, improved focus and visualization for sports performance, increased body awareness, and reduced concussion symptoms. Whistler has an established health and wellness community and West Coast Float adds another option for people to improve their wellbeing and heal faster.

For the founders of West Coast Float, providing a space for people to feel healthy is a privilege, but the real reward comes when clients carry their positive experiences with them from their pod out into their community and the world around them.

Make business easy — tune into The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector. 

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