Underwater Challenge

Self: Cooperation and Problem Solving
14-16 years
Anticipate Time
1.5 hours min
2-5, 5-15, 15-30
Determination, Endurance, Self Dicipline, Thoroughness


Pathfinders race to complete a number of water challenges

Through participation in this Pursuit, the Pathfinder will:

  1. Work successfully as part of a team to master a number of challenges
  2. Demonstrate honesty as they participate
  3. Demonstrate a spirit of true sportsmanship during the challenges

Scripture Focus

Memory Verse

Colossians 3:17
In whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord..

Charles Swindoll is a veteran wisdom seeker. Consider his sage advice regarding the value of determination, “I’ll be frank with you. I know of no more valuable technique in the pursuit of successful living than sheer, dogged determination. Nothing works… better than persistence – persistence in godliness, determination to stay diligent in study, persistence in commitment to… priorities… determination in working with people. I often remind myself of those familiar words in 2 Timothy 4:1 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” That’s a nice way of saying, “Hang Tough! Do it when it comes naturally and when it is hard to come by. Do it when you’re up, do it when you’re down. Do it when you feel like it, do it when you don’t feel like it. Do it when it’s hot, do it when it’s cold. Keep on doing it. Don’t give up.’” – and its not a message for the ministers alone – we’re all preachers – we preach with our lives, our words, our actions, our attitudes – and that takes persistence and determination. Staying at it. Hanging tough with dogged discipline. When you get whipped or when you win, the secret is staying at it.” 1

The determination required for these challenges is physical, and thus offer a tangible picture of determination; a good starting place for any determined runner… or swimmer… in the race of life.


1. Select a suitable venue for the underwater challenges. Prepare each of the challenges:

  • Treasure Hunt: Prepare a number of clues for the treasure hunt suitable to your specific location. A set of clues will need to be put in place for each team. Write the clues on different coloured plastic with an black Artline texta for easy identification. To make it fair, clues need to be approximately equal in distances covered between each clue. The first group to return to the leader with their treasure is declared the winner of this round. –Make the ‘treasure’ a compass. (It will be used in a subsequent Challenge). Plant it under water in an airtight container.
  • Search and Rescue: Assemble materials
  • Adrift: Place the red cross sign a suitable visible distance from the shore. It will serve as the destination of the ‘hospital’
  • Treasure Lost: Another air tight container to hold a ‘treasure’ of your choice. Place it near some identifiable marker and place it under water where it will need to be retrieved. It should be placed at a specific compass bearing point. Establish three compass bearings of landmarks in your area for each team. The third bearing will be the treasure. The group will all have to move to each spot to take the second compass bearing.
  • Knot a Challenge: Using a hole punch, punch a hole in the corner of six plastic zip-lock bags and tie them along the length of a long 3 meter rope. Anchor the long rope underneath the water. This rope should be hanging vertically. Place a length of 5cm nylon cord in each ziplock bag and zip them shut. Number each bag with your black artline texta so that the knots can be checked for accuracy.
  • Submarined Message: Semaphore alphabet code (if this method of message delivery is chosen) Possible messages:

The compass points north
Never give up
Keep hope alive
O we are the Pathfinders strong

NB. If you have chosen to do this Pursuit as a multi-level Pursuit, ensure you divide your groups evenly and are aware of the swimming abilities of your Pathfinders. While self-selection of teams encourages true team spirit, we do not wish to disadvantage a team because of a lack of skill balance. Spend some time working on this balance, and present to your Pathfinders the established teams.

Naturally health and safely issues will be vitally important in this Pursuit. Check the area thoroughly for its safety and apply the duty of care principles thoroughly. Appoint spotters to be in the water during challenges a non-intrusive distance from your Pathfinders.

This Pursuit outline assumes there are two functioning teams. If you need to have more than that, alter your material needs accordingly.

  • Snorkels, goggles and flippers for each participant
  • Treasure HuntSquares of red plastic (or another bright colour) . Black Artline Texta, Water-tight container,
  • Search and Rescue: A floating object that could be the substitute for a drowning person.
  • Adrift: A canoe for each team, a red cross sign denoting a ‘hospital’
  • Treasure Lost: A second air tight container, one compass for each team
  • Knot a Challenge: Nylon rope, pieces of red (or another bright colour) plastic kon which to write the instructions, Black Artline Texta
  • Submarine Message: Semaphore alphabet (See Appendix)
  • Decide on a suitable prize for this series of challenges. It may be a group prize such as a ‘cup’ or ‘plaque’ or it may take the form of a medal that then can be given to each Pathfinder. Decide whether it/they will be home-made or purchased.


1. Divide your group into your two balanced skill teams. To do this say: Today you will be racing for the prestigious ‘Neptune Cup’ – the inaugural aquatic prize already coveted by thousands in racing circles. There are those, in fact, who are currently actively lobbying for its inclusion in the next Commonwealth Games. Today – the Neptune Cup could be yours! In preparation for this event, Neptune himself has assessed the contestants and has ruled on the established teams. 

Have one of your assistants deliver an official aged nautical looking document and proceed to announce the teams for the day. Have each team assemble together and listen to further instructions:

Say, You are to work as a team to conquer six challenges. Point out that the winners, while receiving profuse honour and glory, will also be the proud recipients of the ________ (trophy, award, medal, whatever you have decided it should be). Explain that each Challenge will be explained before that particular event. Each Team will score 50 points for a win in each event. In the case of a tie, an additional challenge will be added. We applaud, in advance your sense of fair play and honesty with these challenges, and invite you to give your best and show your best in the way you deal with your team mates and the challenges themselves. 

Challenge No. One: Treasure Hunt
Explain the intent of this Challenge: There are two sets of instructions and two treasures hidden under water. You are to search for them as quickly as you can, read the next instruction until you have discovered the treasure. The first team back here with their treasure will be declared the winner of this round. Team A (you may like to have them name themselves), you will be looking for RED clues, Team B, for yellow Clues. Teams must stay together for this Challenge. 

NB. As the groups are completing this Challenge, have an assistant place your human dummies out in the water a challenging distance from the shore. 

Challenge No. Two: Search and Rescue
As soon as challenge No. 1 has been complete, ask your groups to vote a person from their group to be the swimmer for their team in the next challenge. 
When two swimmers have been nominated, tell them their challenge is to swim out and rescue the poor ‘person’ who they can see ‘flailing’ on the water. They are to race to see who can rescue their person the fastest. Have them line up as for a race. 

Challenge No. Three: Adrift
When the ‘person’ has been rescued, and points awarded, place the ‘semi-drowned persons’ in the two canoes on shore and tell the group they are to work together to transport the them as quickly as possible to the ‘hospital’ which is positioned over the water where they see the red crosses. A constraint with this exercise lies with the fact that because the person requires optimum space in the canoe, all of them will have to hold on to the canoe and swim along next to it to transport it. Two people on each team can wear flippers. The first team with the returned canoe, minus one body, wins. Ready Set Go!

Challenge No. Four: Treasure Lost
In this challenge, teams are given 3 compass bearings which highlight certain geographical features and they are to take their new compass bearing from those points. The third compass bearing marks the spot of the treasures. The first team to retrieve the treasure and return to this spot wins. 

Challenge No. Five: Knot a Challenge
The challenge will operate as a relay. On ‘Go’ each team ‘swimmer’ will put on goggles, snorkel and flippers, run to where the cards are – get their instruction for what knot to tie underwater from the shore then dive into the water, swim to the bags on the rope – find the correct number knot bag, unzip it, retrieve the cord, tie it UNDERWATER and then place it back in the bag, zip it shut and swim back, giving their snorkel and goggles to the next person on their team. The first team with all their knots tied is declared the winner. This win, can however be forfeited if the knots are not tied correctly as they were called. 
All knots should have the correct number on the bag. 

Challenge No. Six: Submarine Messages
Each team is to decode four messages UNDER WATER using whatever alphabetic code they devise for themselves. Each team will need to divide into two groups. One group is to send the message and the others are to decode it accurately. For this Challenge all team members will need goggles and snorkels. If you wish, you can use the official semaphore code. (See Appendix) However time should have been spent on this BEFORE undertaking this Pursuit. (See Preparation, for a list of messages to be sent) The point goes to the first team who returns to the leader on the shore with all messages decoded. (They will have to remember them from memory, given that they can’t write them down).

Add up your score and award the winning team with their trophy or medals. (You could have someone dressed as Neptune to make the awards!)


Select from the questions below:

  • What was the hardest challenge?
  • Which challenge developed you as a team the most?
  • Which challenge gave you the greatest sense of satisfaction when you completed it?
  • Who encouraged you the most while you were doing the challenge?
  • What was the most personally challenging moment for you today?
  • How do you feel about having conquered it?


  • When you were in the midst of the challenge and the stress of the moment was there, what did you hear more of – encouragement or criticism?
  • At a time like that, what do we need more of?


  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how much do you accept challenges in your life?
  • Challenges come in many forms. What is the hardest type of challenge in life for you?


  • What strategies can you use to cope with challenges better?


1 Dear Graduate – Letters of wisdom from Charles R Swindoll (1999) Countryman, Tennessee

Take the time before this Pursuit to teach this alphabet if you wish to use it for Challenge No. 6.
Below are the semaphore signs for the letters needed for the following messages:

  • The compass points north
  • Never give up
  • Keep hope alive
  • O we are the Pathfinders strong