It was a day where adults could be kids again. Hundreds of teenagers, young adults — many of them Florida college students, and some families arrived near South Pointe Park in Miami Beach on Saturday morning to take part in Floatopia, a free all-day ocean party where people float around on inflatables of all shapes, sizes and colors. By 2 p.m., the number of people at this float-filled utopia had grown to the thousands.
Though the majority of Floatopians, as they’re dubbed, were consuming alcohol, both in the water and on the beach, they maintained an upbeat, friendly vibe. Throngs danced to sounds from impromptu drum circles that moved from the sand into the sea; many shared drinks and floats with new friends and familiar ones and bobbed around in the light blue water, singing along to songs played from portable, waterproof MP3 players.
The crowd of thousands behind Nikki Beach, to the left of South Pointe’s rock jetty and pier, was reminiscent of a scene from Spring Break. By 6 p.m., however, when high tide struck, beer bottles, cans, discarded floats and other debris were carried out to the sea. Those who did not clean up after themselves put a damper on an event meant to promote fun and to connect people from all over Miami, together.
Dave Doebler, Miami Beach resident and founder of VolunteerCleanUp.org, helped keep the beach clean with his crew of “green team” volunteers. Armed with bright orange five-gallon buckets, they approached people both on the beach and in the water and asked them to discard their empty bottles, cigarette butts and other pieces of trash into the buckets, which they then carried to metal trash containers, located further up on the beach.
“Thousands come out to Floatopia and leave trash everywhere,” said Doebler of the event which was publicized via Facebook. “Our goal is to facilitate and educate people about putting their trash in the right place. We bring the trash containers to the people.” With just handfuls of volunteers, their buckets filled up quickly. He hopes the city of Miami Beach will use this clean-up model on a larger scale to keep the beaches clean.
He and his crew also saved beachgoers from receiving $100 tickets from code enforcement officials. Styrofoam is now illegal in Miami Beach, yet many arrived with coolers made from the brittle, white material. “It breaks apart in little white balls – it’s impossible to clean up,” Doebler says. In their “cooler exchange” program, they donated free reusable coolers to people in exchange for their Styrofoam ones.
“I want people to have a good time,” Doebler said. “I just want them to respect the beach.”
Two University of California, Santa Barbara, students came up with the idea for Floatopia between 2003 and 2004 and launched it at a popular beach frequented by college students within the Isla Visa community there. It’s since spread to other coastal communities throughout the U.S.
How to help
Want to organize a cleanup or volunteer for one near you?
Visit http://www.volunteercleanup.org/ for more information.