The first time I heard of the name 'Aquachigger' I thought it was some sort of marinelife racial slur. But Beau Ouimette, the man behind the Aquachigger YouTube channel, couldn't be further from a racially charged sea creature. He is re-pioneering a lost art, something dreamt of by children around the world: treasure hunting and adventuring. Yes, à la Pirates of the Caribbean and classic Mark Twain novels, Ouimette trudges river beds around the world armed with his trusted metal detector and GoPro to share every step of the adventure.
In modern speak, discovering "gold" is often used to describe something that's yet to go viral. However, well before computers could be worn on your wrist, or on your face if you're Larry Page, discovering gold meant literally that, searching and stumbling upon a trove of the precious gems and antiquities. Ouimette looks to the past and merges it with modern day technology, to create something refreshingly original in his videos. He shares his adventures through his YouTube channel that has nearly 300,000 loyal subscribers who look forward to his weekly discoveries.
For Ouimette, treasure hunting and the great outdoors have been passions for over 20 years, "I began searching rivers about 20 years ago after reading a Civil War soldier's diary where he wrote about watching cannonballs hit a stream bank and roll back into the water making a "hissing" sound. I went to that exact spot and found cannonballs," said Ouimette. Not only does he go to great lengths to find theses antiques, but Ouimette is finding modern relics as well, such as cameras and cell phones, lost at popular tubing or rafting spots. He's kind enough to return them whenever possible.
Beau posted his first video on YouTube after he recorded one of his hunts with an underwater camera. Ouimette explained, "with the advent of YouTube, it suddenly became possible to tell a compelling story and share in the 'actual' moment of my discoveries. Over time, I discovered that my viewers not only wanted to be entertained and see what I was doing, but they wanted to learn as well... I have become a teacher of the things in life that interest me. For me, that has become a driving force to continue. My classroom has become the world."
The new digital audience has become captivated by his rustic adventuring. When I think of "living off the land", it's hard to shake the image of hillbillies with 'Trump 2016' plastered around their yard. But there's something romantically nostalgic about the Aquachigger that's bringing viewers to his channel in droves. And maybe it's a fleeting trend, or maybe that nostalgia is deeply engrained in all of us.
The reality is that with the peak of fingertip technology and all its monotony, young people are seeking comfort in the past and the 'simpler times' like never before. And Ouimette is the window into a lifestyle that I can only imagine my ancestors lived. With the overly synthesized world that we live in, it's becoming more apparent that the past is a major key (queue DJ Khaled) to the future.
Ouimette suggests that, "most people long for [adventure] in their lives." His passion for the outdoors has led him on the path of adventuring. To him, using something like YouTube to share his experience was a natural choice. He explains, "we as people, strive to use the best technologies to further our interests whether it be good hiking boots, top-tier cameras, or digital technology such as the internet. I have come to realize it is a seamless flow from the past to the present. My experiences in life are not much different than those of a century before. Though technology has changed, the human condition remains the same." Perhaps adventuring is the human condition ingrained in us all. It's such a millennial stereotype to take off to Europe for two-weeks and be reborn a citizen of the world, but, hear me out, maybe that is the modern adventurer. Instead of exploring the land around us, the world has become our backyard, and culture the treasure.
With technology becoming more and more ingrained into everything that we do, the idea of 'the simpler times' is attracting the younger generation to his videos. In fact, Ouimette believes that the majority of his viewership is made up of young teenagers. It's interesting to consider this in relation to a trend among the younger generation to 'live off the grid' and escape technology, school, and the office. It's a Thoreau-ian dream, sure, but I'm not sure how many millennials would really be into emptying their own latrines. And even though the digital interest is there, I can't help but wonder if this outdoor-oriented lifestyle is in danger of become extinct every time I see a group of teens snapchatting and vining every moment of everyday.
Luckily Ouimette doesn't share this view. He believes that the marriage of tech and outdoor adventuring makes this lifestyle more appealing than ever. More people now have the capacity to choose their own fate, rather than be forced into the direction of their parents and grandparents. Having this sort of autonomy is almost a form of millennial rebellion. It's a romantic notion that my generation (sadly, the millennial generation) is not prepared to let go of. And it's the people like Ouimette who are, "leading a 'new revolution' showcasing the outdoors and convincing all sorts of people that they can enjoy it too."
And if the idea of going back to the simpler times still doesn't tickle your fancy, you can still live the adventure through The Aquachigger's channel, the, "modern campfire chronicler."