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Full-blown fabulous: Fantastical pool floats go mainstream

Full-blown fabulous: Fantastical pool floats go mainstream
Girl's popsicle float, left, $14.99; Big Mouth giant bling ring innertube, $19.99 at Target. (Target)

Rainbows and unicorns and mermaids, oh my!

Flotillas of magical creatures, wild animals, summer fruits and fun, novelty designs (think pineapples and popsicles) are making waves in swimming pools this summer and creating an even bigger splash on social media.

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Irresistibly Instagrammable, there are 31,210 posts with the hashtag #swanfloat, 19,542 photos tagged #unicornfloat and 90,820 pictures hashtagged #poolfloat — and counting.

The summer of '17 is destined to be documented one-selfie-at-a-time with inflatable floats — and for good reason: Pool toys have never been cuter or more creative.

And they're not just for kids.

Boasting mega descriptors like "giant" and "floating island," many are designed to carry up to two adults at a time and can measure more than 8 feet in length.

On-board amenities vary but can include multiple cup holders, twin air valves that allow inflation via a hairdryer — away from water, of course — and optional LED lights that glow, flash, pulse and strobe.

Rachel Gannon, e-commerce merchandise manager for the Los Angeles lifestyle brand ban.do, said it's a water-tight trend that can be traced to Taylor Swift's much lauded and well-photographed Fourth of July fiesta last year, when she hosted a pool party filled with celebrities, giant flamingos, inflatable swans and unicorns.

"Last year," Gannon said of our infatuation with inflatables, "really blew up." No pun intended.

In addition to the cool factor of celebrity endorsement, how much did the photogenic quality of the floats contribute to their popularity?

"100%," Gannon said.

Giant glow-in-the-dark swans with LED lights that can pulse, flash and strobe, $59.99 by Swimline at VMInnovations.com
Giant glow-in-the-dark swans with LED lights that can pulse, flash and strobe, $59.99 by Swimline at VMInnovations.com (Swimline)

"I think right now it's really popular to go to Palm Springs or take these weekend trips and load the pools up with floats." You can almost hear the iPhones snapping from here.

In fact, the tsunami of stylized floats has swept beyond local shores and swimming pools.

"My brother goes to the Yacht Week every year," Gannon said of the year-round floating festivals held around the world for the young, fab and financed, "and his girlfriend packs a whole suitcase of these inflatables so they can float by the yachts… they even pay to check the bag."

So what are the cool kids riding this year?

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Although big birds and unicorns remain classic choices, this summer, "there is so much more to choose from, it's crazy," Gannon said.

Hearts, rainbows, tropical fruits and interesting shapes are among the options. "We have a seashell on our site that does really well," Gannon added.

Jumbo pink heart innertube, $24, left; giant 5-foot-plus Sweetheart raft, $85; Seashell float, $78, at bando.com.
Jumbo pink heart innertube, $24, left; giant 5-foot-plus Sweetheart raft, $85; Seashell float, $78, at bando.com. (Ban.do)

Bottom line, whatever floats your boat.

On a more serious note, it's important to remember that pool toys are not designed to be flotation devices for small children or for those who cannot swim.

To maintain water safety, the American Red Cross recommends active supervision at all times for children in the water, meaning stay within arm's reach of young kids, designate someone to watch the pool when people are in the water and never allow anyone to swim alone.

Establish and enforce pool rules, have fun and, while you're at it, be careful where you're swinging that selfie stick.

Bonnie McCarthy contributes to the Los Angeles Times as a home and lifestyle design writer. She enjoys scouting for directional trends and reporting on what's new and next. Follow her on Twitter @ThsAmericanHome

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