What is an Urban Scavenger Hunt?
The hunt began at nine in the morning. My girlfriend, Eli, and I awaited an email containing the proper instructions, tasks, hashtags, and gear we might need to embark on a day of random adventures. Let me reassure you that this was not a traditional hunt; no animals or people were harmed in process of the hunt or during the creation of this essay. This was an urban scavenger hunt, a chance to make fools of ourselves around the city of Los Angeles in the hopes of winning a mysterious grand prize in an undisclosed location. Upon receiving the email, we mapped out the day according to the various adventurous, social, and fun tasks. Each task was worth a certain amount of points. The options were aplenty, varying from surfing a wave, doing a belly flop into water, karate chopping in Chinatown, eating a donut without hands, or proposing to a random stranger on the Santa Monica pier. We were ready for total embarrassment.
To properly submit an entry of a task to the contest, each team had to upload a video or photo of said task to Instagram. Once the necessary amount of points was reached, the team sent an email to the hunt committee with the Instagram handle. The committee would then review each video/photo to see if the tasks were properly done-there was some expectedness for creativity.
Embarrassment with a view at Griffith Park Observatory
The first video we shot was at the Griffith Observatory, which overlooks Downtown LA from its elevated throne. It was chilly, gloomy, and raining off and on – not your typical Los Angeles weather. As we took turns videoing our performances of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” onlookers seemed confused at the public display of weirdness. I wonder if tourists visiting the Observatory figured that the people of Los Angeles were just a bunch of loonies on the loose. Maybe we were. I can say with all honesty that we weren’t afraid, or living behind a veil of fear of what people might think of us.
As we progressed through the tasks in the scavenger hunt, we leap-frogged each other in front of Dodger Stadium, did jumping jacks at the Staples Center, and savagely ate a donut without our hands – we continued to run into other people, who were also taking part in the scavenger hunt. It was interesting because there was an inter-connectivity between an indeterminate amount of teams. If we searched Instagram for the hashtags that were specific to the hunt, we could see what other teams did for different tasks. The opposing side of that inter-connected group of teams was the outside world of friends and family. Throughout the day, I kept getting text messages and comments on the videos asking what we were doing and why. Since neither Eli nor I are avid social media users, it was out of the norm for me to post so many videos, and of strange things no less! These random videos of odd or embarrassing actions perplexed people. At the same time, people were intrigued, drawn into our world of strange, and living these adventures vicariously through social media.
The LA Scavenger Hunt Continues – Venice Beach Surfing
The rain sustained and the sun failed to shine as our scavenger hunt continued. We headed toward Venice Beach, which has a rugged yet beautiful personality and is home to eccentric characters. When we stepped out of the car and were greeted by the overcast beach, we smelled a strong whiff of weed, which seems to linger in the air like the ominous smog above Los Angeles. I was going surfing, well, I was jumping in the water to catch one wave and then skim-board across the slanted beach. Normally I put on a full-body wetsuit, but struggling to put on that thing, which makes me feel like Aqua man, seemed ridiculous for such a short time in the water. I was “trunking” it, meaning I was headed out in surf shorts and a rash-guard. Seagulls trolled through the sandy parking lot like prison guards keeping watch over the yard. As Eli and I walked through the parking lot to the beach, random Venice “bros” called out, “Hey, buddy, the beach is that way,” as they pointed towards the city, laughing at the remark. I was well aware of the scene and was even more aware that the waves were small and the water was too goddamn cold to not wear a wetsuit. What they were not aware of was that I actually can surf, really well for that matter.
I was born and raised in Hawaii and have been surfing for almost twenty years. I’m not the best surfer, but I’m comfortable in the water and have held my own in surf that was three times my height. What I found fascinating about these guys, who were yelling at us, was that I could probably out-surf them. That sounds arrogant, but let me explain. In my experience at certain California surf breaks, many people like to be cocky and talk a big game, but lack the funds when it comes time to pay up, if you catch my drift. In Hawaii, nobody says anything to you until they see you in action; they let the surfing, not the appearance, do the talking. Something will be said if people disrespect the location or are a danger to themselves and other people in the water. Nevertheless, I jumped in the water, immediately feeling a cold rush all the way to my bones. I caught my wave in the murky water and paddled to shore, where Eli sat, bundled up on the damp sand, holding a towel for me.
Final Thoughts at the Conclusion of the Scavenger Hunt
After the surfing task, we concluded that we were done with the scavenger hunt. The weather worsened and we were tired of being cold and wet. Despite the weather, we had an incredible amount of fun exploring parts of Los Angeles we don’t frequent. That was the beauty of the hunt. It got people out and about, showing them new parts of the city while sometimes forcing them into uncomfortable situations. I probably would have been lazy and done nothing productive with my day, had I not participated in an urban scavenger hunt. Eli and I belonged to a select group of active people living life and adventuring together. We embraced something different, something new, a scavenger hunt to escape our lethargic ways. If that’s not what life is about, I don’t know what is.