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Hot 20: SOAK Founder, Nell Waters

SOAK founder, Nell Waters

"I'm a big fan of 18th Hour, which is a pop-up kitchen on Thursday evenings at 18 reasons, led by John Lee of Bi-Rite. It's where you go if you want to pop in for a good beer and a snack." Photograph by Daniel Morris.

HOT. The word carries so many meanings: passionate, sizzling, trendy, intense, and yes, sexy. But for us, it signals our favorite month. Meet the 20 movers and shakers that have us fired up this year.

Malcolm Gladwell would call Nell Waters a connector—one of those people who knows everyone in town. We call Waters a pollinator, because not only does she know everyone, she’s got a genius for sharing her brainstorms with us. Her latest project, SOAK, will be a mobile urban bathhouse designed by Rebar Group (“We have friends in common,” says Waters—something you hear her say a lot) and made from shipping containers. “It’s meant to be the antithesis of the day spa”—i.e., no pink, no cucumber face scrubs—“but to do something on that scale now, in San Francisco, you really have to consider resources.” So the power is solar and the water recycled, but most importantly, it’ll be a place of connection, like the old Sutro baths.

While SOAK is simmering, Waters runs her Dogpatch bodywork studio, Whole Body Tonic, performs with the artists’ collective Odyssey Works, and throws the occasional party. “The dinner party’s ready for a revolution,” she muses, “maybe one where the focus is less on the food and can actually return to conversation?” We know just who to call.

Why Nell Waters thinks Dogpatch needs a zipline

“I love Dogpatch, and I would say maybe nine months ago I started to notice the traffic picking up on 16th Street, and four months ago I felt like everything just completely exploded. I think the neighborhood is going to have ask the question about transportation, though, because you can only get there right now, if you’re coming from the west side of town, past Chavez or 16th. Someone I was talking to was making a very strong argument for having a zipline up around 22nd and just dropping down, and it’s such a great business plan—San Franciscans’ love for adventure, the fact that they’ll pay for higher experience…It’s quick, innovative—I actually feel like if somebody could design it and finance it, I think it’d be very successful, even if it lasted for like a year. Why not? This city is primed for a number of zipline activities with all the hills.”