Winning a “choose your own adventure” race

Words: Josh Rakic
Photography: Sam Ricks (Cotopaxi)

A 21st Century scavenger hunt for the adventure enthusiast and how to win it (HINT: post almost everything).

The term scavenger hunt typically conjures up images of children’s birthday parties. But like many icons of the 1980s and ’90s (see: your favorite movies) the concept has recently undergone a 21st Century reboot. Introducing Questival, a 24-hour adventure race series where the journey is literally more important than the final destination. It’s a high-adrenaline scavenger hunt that sees teams of two to six cover land, air and water, as they traverse volcanoes, cliff faces and rapids by foot, bike, bus or canoe. The more difficult the challenge, the more points you’re awarded. And the more “upvotes” your photo and video posts receive on the Questival app, the more bonus points you get. It’s the ultimate leveler for the intrepid thrill-seeker, allowing amateurs of all ages to compete against hardened adventure racing pros. We caught up with winning team captain and Youtube star of Devin Super Tramp Creighton Baird to find out what it takes to compete in and win Questival.

gopro adventure questival team race photography swimming diving

The more fun you’re having on social media, the more bonus points you get. 

© Creighton Baird

THE RED BULLETIN: Your team of five beat out 360 other teams in Utah. What preparation is involved?

CREIGHTON BAIRD: Fitness-wise, surprisingly little. A lot of it comes down to strategy and risk. The day before the race, all teams are emailed a list of about 300 challenges that are available to do and each has a points value assigned to it based on how difficult it is to accomplish—anywhere from 1 to 10 points. One point might be to eat an unusual street taco from somewhere. A 10-point might be to bungee jump or paraglide. So once we had that and our team name—Without A Paddle—it’s then down to meticulously planning out your order of attack, what goals we want to accomplish and how and when we’re going to do it. You’ve got 24 hours to complete the tasks you choose and get to the finish. So it’s about weighing up the value of the challenge and the time required to complete it. Good planning is imperative.

Your team was made up of climbers, paddle boarders and skydivers. What are the ideal ingredients to a winning team?

My advice is to assemble people who are really good at working really hard with no sleep - something most office workers can relate to. You have 24 hours to complete as many challenges and activities as possible. You want good planners and people who can follow through and execute that plan. You go, go, go and pound Red Bulls all night to get done what needs doing to win. You need finishers. It’s an exhausting 24 hours but an exciting 24 hours, challenging your body, skills and mind. It’s a bonding experience over a bungee jump.

questival adventure race plane jump skydive

Baird’s advice? “Assemble people who are really good at working really hard with no sleep.” But having a skydiver or two on the team for those 10-point challenges helps as well. 

© Creighton Baird

Teams who post the best pics on social media are rewarded with bonus points, too. How’s that play into your strategy?

It’s not like American Tarzan or Spartan Race. You don’t need to be a speed climber or ultra runner or strongman. You can be at any decent fitness level and be able to compete and have a good time, and have a chance of winning. To win, the best thing you can do is have fun. People who vote for your pictures can see if you’re having fun and that correlates into “upvotes”. I’d say have fun, show personality, exude charisma and good things will happen. It worked for us. Fun and silliness typically translates into more “upvotes” from the public on the app, and the judges. The combination of points from all three decide the winner.

Explain “fun and silliness” during a 500-foot bungee plummet to the earth?

Show yourself having fun doing it! We had to think social media and what makes the best pictures and stuff people like to “upvote”. It’s not only about doing the challenges, but who’s doing them with the most style, with the most swag, charisma and personality. It really opens the door to have fun in the outdoors while adventure racing. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure race. It’s great.

You just completed the World Champs in Central America. What did that look like with your team down to three and only $900 between you for seven days?

It was seven days across seven countries. We flew into Belize and found our own transportation to an ancient Mayan city in Guatemala. Then it was seven days to make it to Panama City through whatever means necessary—we took buses, we walked, we hitchhiked and ran. There were challenges like surfing, kayaking, jumping from waterfalls, climbing… we skimboarded down volcanoes!(main photo, above) And just getting across the borders was difficult in itself. We ended blowing through our per diem in two days and paid from our own pockets—which is allowed, because it only benefits the local villages.

Check out Creighton and his team’s adventures here. And get involved here.


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