Urban Adventure: Geocaching, Elevator Surfing and Drainboating

In his book Access All Areas, the late, and legendary, Ninjalicious (real name Jeff Chapman) drew a Venn diagram detailing what he considered to be the crossover between urban exploration, building infiltration and urban adventure. While urbex can be considered a catch-all or umbrella term for the exploration of the urban landscape, the term is often associated with abandoned buildings. In this article we’ll look more broadly at three activities that fall under “urban adventure”, the first one rather safe, the latter two more bleak and subversive.


(Images: Liimes, public domain; Addihockey10, cc-sa-3.0; Miaow Miaow 1 & 2, public domain)

Similar to the 150-year-old game of letterboxing and conceived around May 2000, when the removal of Selective Availability made global positioning devices (GPS) more accurate, geocaching has been described as a “game of high-tech hide and seek”. Participants use a GPS receiver or mobile device to hide and seek hidden containers known as geocaches or caches.

(Image: J.smith, cc-sa-3.0)

Typically, a geocache consists of a waterproof container concealing various trinkets, usually of little value, and a logbook where “geocachers” enter their code names and the day they found the cache. To date, over 1.7 million geocaches have been published across the internet by more than 5 million global geocachers. Caches exist in over 200 countries on all continents, including Antarctica and the International Space Station.

Elevator Surfing

(Images: UrbexNWobersalzberggeist via YouTube)

Generally illegal and highly dangerous (like its relative, train surfing), elevator surfing involves accessing the roofs of elevators and even jumping between moving elevators where possible. Also known as “Vator Surfing”, the hobby typically occurs in skyscrapers and other tall buildings. Adrenaline junkies may access elevators in the early morning while buildings are quiet, holding them between floors before climbing through hatches onto their roofs. Another method involves opening exterior doors on the floor above the elevator before jumping into the shaft. An accomplice inside the elevator will then press buttons to provide movement before being pulled through the hatch. Like many “sports”, timing is everything, and elevator surfing gone wrong can have fatal consequences.


(Images: shotgunmario via YouTube)

Another form of urban exploration falling more broadly under the category of urban adventure, is drainboating (or drain boating). The name is relatively self explanatory, and involves the infiltration of storm drains, sewers and other drainage systems and subterranean waterways that are large enough to pass through in a small (inflatable) boat. Like elevator surfing, drainboating can be an extremely hazardous hobby. Explorers can potentially get lost, especially in the vast sewer systems of the Victorian era, or drowned if water levels suddenly rise or tunnels become flooded.

Keep reading – Check out our Brief Introduction to Urban Exploration, and explore 10 Abandoned Buildings and Places.



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