By John Hood
It was one of those things that made Memorial Day remarkably memorable. Something so grand, it left folks in awe. And so simple, it made them all wonder why they hadn’t thought of it before. It turned a day at the beach into a new way to reach out to others, beyond cyberspace, to a place where people truly connect. It was Beach Towel. And it took a town’s breath away.
Now that Beach Towel is about to do all that and then some again, not just here, on that sacred strip of sand known as South Beach, but up along the Eastern Seaboard till it hits Rockaway. And you can bet your itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini The Ramones will be there singing along — at least in spirit anyway.
A product of the bright mind that restlessly rests in the skull of Miami’s own Misael Soto, “Beach Towel” is just what it says it is: a beach towel. The only difference is Soto’s beach towel happens to span a whopping 56’ x 29’ and is big enough to hold not just all of your friends, but all of your Facebook friends too. That’s only fitting considering this physical equivalent of social media was largely spurred along by Mark Zuckerberg’s monster.
“Facebook really does work,” says Soto from a table in front of Panther Coffee. “Kickstarter allows you to see where your traffic is coming from, and I’d say nearly 90% of our traffic came directly from Facebook.”
That Kickstarter Campaign Soto’s talking about raised enough loot to launch a Beach Towel Tour — and it reached its goal with time to spare. Of course more would surely be welcome.
“I purposely chose a bare-bones amount,” explains Soto; “one modest enough to achieve, but large enough to get Beach Towel up the Coast. Again though, we’re talkin’ bare bones. Any extra might allow me to supersize my Happy Meals.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to Soto’s swingin’ cause is urged to hit Kickstarter by midnight Friday July 27th. After that you’ll have to show your support in person, either on 21st Street Beach this Saturday (July 28) or up in Lauderdale, where Los Olas meets A1A on Sunday the 29th. If the rumble among the with-it is any indication, there will be a large contingent doing both.
“We had 400 people on Memorial Day,” Soto recalls. “Friends. Friends of friends. Absolute strangers. And everyone had a blast. It was amazing.”
Soto says his “social experiment” was sparked after noting how beachgoers blocked out their particular patch of sand; then basically kept to themselves.
“The original idea came about from a process of looking at public places,” he says. “I wanted to take something that people use to separate themselves and turn it on its head.”
Not only did Soto succeed in turning something on its head, he turned a whole lotta heads doing so too. Those initial 400 must’ve told 400 more, and they too surely exponentially spread the word. How else to explain the rash of blog support, not to mention the cover of the Sun-Sentinel and ink in New York’s Daily News.
“The coverage has been incredible — and inspiring,” says Soto. “I had a feeling folks would get it; I had no idea they’d get with it to such an extent though too.”
Humble as he is though, there’s no denying that Soto’s idea was brighter than the average notion, nor that it deserves all of the attention it’s getting. What’s perhaps even more illuminating is that the whole notion sprung from a car crash.
“I was in a bad accident,” said Soto. “And the insurance company wouldn’t cover the costs of repairing my car. So I bought a bike, sold what was left and put it into Beach Towel. It was the best thing that could’ve happened.”
And if that’s not making lemonade from the lemons life throws your way, well, there’s no such thing as lemonade.