Floatopia Planned for Hollywood Beach, Angering Environmentalists

Miami Beach's Floatopia was held earlier this month.
Miami Beach's Floatopia was held earlier this month.
Photo by Karli Evans

Earlier this month on Miami Beach, revelers gathered with their inflatable tubes and rafts for Floatopia, a massive, informal party that has been happening since at least 2012 and has left the beach smothered in trash. The event (which is just an excuse to drink beer, smoke weed, and eat corn dogs while floating Life of Pi-style on an endless sea) was beset with so much garbage and revelry this year that the event's official organizers disowned the event on the Floatopia Facebook page, and city officials demanded the event be banned.

But this is Florida, dammit, so if we can't get drunk and vomit on sea turtles in Miami, you bet we're going to do it up in Broward County. Case in point: A group is now organizing to host another Floatopia on Hollywood Beach this Memorial Day, May 30. Naturally, local environmentalists, like the Surfrider Foundation, are pretty pissed.

Milan Jeffries, age 23, of Hollywood, says she and a group of 12 organizers started planning "FloatopiaHollywood" in March, long before Floatopia Miami sent wads of trash out into the open ocean.

"I'd attended a few Floatopias in California, and they seemed to be much cleaner," Jeffries says. Some of her family members live in Fresno, California. "The events didn’t have the same issues, as far as trash goes. I think they bring a lot of recreation to the beach, and businesses can pass out fliers and stuff."

Aware that Floatopia-style events do tend to create litter, though, Jeffries says she's gathered a group of 20 volunteers to help clean the beach after the event. She's also started a GoFundMe page to raise money to hire a professional cleanup crew. But so far, she's raised only $5.

Local environmentalists say that even if Jeffries and her crew can organize a cleanup effort, it won't be enough to stop the event from doing permanent damage to Hollywood Beach's ecosystem.

Catherine Uden, secretary for the Surfrider Foundation in Broward County, says the group is "really, really worried" about the event. Uden, age 40, lives in Hollywood and says she's never seen a Floatopia where trash wasn't left behind.

A separate Floatopia has been held for a number of years up at Peanut Island in West Palm Beach. In 2014, the Palm Beach Post reported that "several people" needed medical attention after numerous boats turned over during that Floatopia.

"Every organization starts the same way, saying they're going to hand out trash bags and keep the beach clean," Uden says. "But even if they have 20 volunteers, unless they have those 20 people swimming after the garbage, they won't be able to stop the trash from floating out into the ocean. These people want to treat the ocean like some pool in Vegas, but they don’t understand it’s an ecosystem and not a frat house. There are animals in there that are endangered."

Uden says that once she heard about the proposed event, she spoke out at a City Commission meeting. Messages from New Times to the City Commission have received no response, and it's unclear if the city has made any plans to control the celebration.

Hollywood Police spokesperson Jaime Hernandez tells New Times the department became aware of Floatopia through social media but has not made any plans to beef up security for the event.

"Due to larger-than-normal crowds that Hollywood Beach experiences during the annual Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Hollywood Police Department already plans to have increased patrols and staffing in the area," he adds.

Uden, meanwhile, says she was "aware of Floatopia Miami last year and knew a lot of volunteers. It was so hard to control. When people are intoxicated, they don’t care what you say. The organizations don't realize exactly how many people 20 volunteers is to clean up the garbage — it's not enough."

She adds: "We're going to do our best to stop it."

Here's a video of what one beachgoer found after Miami's latest Floatopia:

The reaction elsewhere on social media, however, has been decidedly mixed:

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