TAMPA, Fla. - It all started with a bet.
Nineteen-year-old Sydney Fowls and her cousins were planning a girls' trip from Columbus, Ohio to Tampa when the idea came to mind: See if they could get away with checking a pool noodle on their Southwest Airlines flight.
"They were like, ‘That’d be so funny, do it!’ And I was like, ‘I’m not doing that," Fowls said. "They said, ’We’ll give you $20 if you check your pool noodle' – and I was like, ‘OK cool, $20, I’m in college, I’m broke.’"
Anyone who flies Southwest Airlines knows, your first two bags fly free – but a noodle is not exactly a bag.
"At first I was like, Southwest is never going to let me check this, they’re going to say, carry it on with you," she said.
But as she started recording the check-in, she realized no one was noodling over her odd choice of luggage.
"When we boarded the plane, we just happened to look out the window and there were the ramp guys loading my pool noodle onto the plane," she laughed.
By the time she landed at TPA, she knew it’d make for a funny TikTok video – but never imagined it’d go viral.
(Courtesy: Sydney Fowls)
Right now, it has 1.8 million likes and 11 million views.
"Several times when we were on the beach people recognized me from my TikTok – they were like, ‘Oh are you the girl who made that TikTok about taking a pool noodle on a plane?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah I am.’"
Even the airline got in on the fun on her return leg, gifting her with their own "themed" pool noodle. When she landed back in Columbus, the airport crews on the runway welcomed her plane by waving pool noodles from where they stood.
Something so simple, skyrocketing her TikTok following to 20,000 from nearly nothing.
"Like five, like 10 followers," she laughed. "I don’t know, not many! And now I have 20,000."
Twenty-thousand followers, and an extra 20 bucks, too.
Sydney says this was her first trip to Tampa, and she visited Siesta Key and several beaches. One of the coolest parts of her vacation, she says, was seeing a manatee out in the wild.