Bubble Guy is the Bay to Breakers hero San Francisco needs
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Bubble Guy is the Bay to Breakers hero San Francisco needs

Mar 31, 2023

Bubble Guy traverses Fell Street during Bay to Breakers on May 21, 2023.

When asked if this was his first time at San Francisco's Bay to Breakers, the man operating an arsenal of five bubble machines simply laughed as thousands of soapy spheres floated over Fell Street.

"Does it look like it's my first time? No, it does not look like my first time with the bubble machine. I’ve been at Bay to Breakers for more than a decade," he told SFGATE at the city's footrace/party Sunday.

A Haight-Ashbury resident who moved to San Francisco from Britain 23 years ago, he requested to be identified as simply "The Bubble Guy," because he doesn't want what he considers an art project to be about him — he typically stands in the distance so as not to be a distraction.

Bubble Guy chooses to keep his identity a secret, letting the soap speak for itself pic.twitter.com/GhwlBIeL2V

"If I stay across the street anonymously, which I usually do, and no one knows who I am, then you see people come up to it and go crazy for it. That's the interaction I want. It's so sincere."

His industrial-strength bubble contraption was impossible to miss Sunday. Parked along the race route in front of the Panhandle, just a few feet from a raging house party, it drew revelers young and old, who stopped in their tracks to enjoy the flood of bubbles with childlike wonder. One father exclaimed that he’d been following the bubbles with his daughter for three hours. It was just one of many oddball happenings that make Bay to Breakers more than just a footrace.

"[The bubbles are] for kids and drunk people, basically," said Bubble Guy, whose sunglasses and a furry cap hid his face. "And dogs."

Bubble Guy traverses Fell Street during Bay to Breakers on May 21, 2023.

The Bubble Guy's operation has gone through many iterations over the years. When he owned just one bubble machine, it was propped up in a baby stroller, often seen on a sidewalk in Haight-Ashbury or at other city events. Now, the stacked bubble machines occupy a small wagon, along with the necessary 5-gallon jug of bubble fluid. (The rig goes through roughly half a gallon an hour.) A couple of GoPro cameras are mounted on the front, recording at 120 frames per second. The Bubble Guy later reverses the footage to make it look like bubbles are emerging from people's mouths and posts the resulting videos to his YouTube channel.

When the Bubble Guy does hang out next to his machine, he always seems to get the same questions.

"No. 1: ‘Is that your bubble machine?’ No. 2: Get this — ‘What's it for?’ And No. 3: ‘How does it work?’ I’m like, ‘I can't help you with any of those.’

"I rapidly learned that there's nothing I can add to this. I just turn up, make it do a lot of bubbles, make it reliable, then f—k off basically. It's not about me."

Judging by the number of race revelers enjoying his art, and all the impromptu street dance parties it started after the runners were long gone, the Bubble Guy is one of the most important parts of the race, whether or not he wants the credit.

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