Surviving Catalina Island with ‘Arthur the King’ and the Bear Grylls Academy

Catalina Island, the small resort city situated an hour by ferry from Lengthy Seaside, may be the final place I anticipated to go for a survival course. Earlier than final weekend, my solely body of reference to it was “the Catalina f—ing wine mixer” within the comedy Step Brothers. So I believed it sounded just like the setup to a joke after I was invited on the market to attend a weekend occasion with the Bear Grylls Survival Academy as a promotion for Arthur the King, a film about Mark Wahlberg befriending a stray canine whereas racing by the jungle.

However it wasn’t a joke. It was an actual occasion with actual planning to spotlight a movie primarily based on a real story. Arthur the King was impressed by Mikael Lindnord’s memoir Arthur: The Canine Who Crossed the Jungle to Discover a Dwelling. Lindnord actually was an journey athlete and actually did befriend a canine he named Arthur throughout a race. 

Whereas the purpose of the occasion was to achieve publicity for the film, I discovered it arduous to think about how they’d conduct a survival course for a bunch of leisure reporters and influencers at a spot identified for leisure. However that is what occurred. 

Arthur the King

Arthur the King is about fictitious journey athlete Micheal Mild (performed by Wahlberg) who has an insatiable urge for food for journey and an unwavering drive to compete. His faults are instantly obvious within the opening sequence when he ignores recommendation from his teammates and leads them down uncharted waters as he tries to get forward of the opposite groups. They get caught in a low tide and are compelled to stop the race. 

The film follows Mild as he pursues his final likelihood to win an enormous journey race. To try this, he solicits cash from sponsors and cashes out his financial savings to pay for the journey and coaching. Then he builds a crew by recruiting a beginner and an over-the-hill contender, and making amends with an estranged teammate. The hodgepodge assortment of athletes set off for Mild’s remaining race. A couple of quarter of the best way into the film, Mild shares meals with a canine. 2 hundred miles or so later, he discovers that the canine has been following him they usually turn into inseparable.

The connection between the movie and Bear Grylls is smart from the beginning. Grylls isn’t within the film, however he’s current as a commentator (or perhaps narrator as a result of the race doesn’t look like broadcast) for the race and offers exposition. He reveals issues like how Mild is probably the most expert journey racer who has by no means received a championship.  

Journey to Catalina Island

From a distance, Catalina Island seemed extra like Jurassic Park than a swanky vineyard and resort city. Mountains lined in timber and thick inexperienced vegetation jutted up from the shore have been shrouded in low-lying clouds that diverse in thickness and shade (it rained on and off the complete weekend).

As we sailed across the island, you might see an ancient-looking dome and homes and accommodations constructed into the mountainside. The city was filled with present outlets, eating places, and bars. Your entire vacationer space — not less than, the half I noticed — jogged my memory of a cross between Charleston, South Carolina, and Galway, Eire. You could possibly stroll the complete space in a couple of half hour. 

Round 6:30 p.m., I went with about 20 different media varieties to fulfill with the publicity crew at an occasion area about six minutes away from the resort. There, I met hosts of life-style and journey reveals, leisure reporters, online game and film influencers, a pair who podcasted about Peloton bikes, and different area of interest media. 

Though the publicists despatched out an itinerary, exhibiting that we’d be doing issues like zip lining, scrambling, kayaking, and experiencing a “survival” state of affairs through which we’d must scavenge for meals, we have been all not sure about how intense the occasions would really be. 

Group 2 members after receiving their “Arthur the King” canine. Picture: Junket Productions Inc

As we ate smoked rooster, brisket, and ribs for dinner, the dialog ranged from speaking about ourselves to the Arthur film to our backgrounds within the outside, which ran the gamut. Some had little to no expertise, others had some, and one was a licensed pilot and SCUBA diver. We joked about out of doors mishaps and consuming our personal bodily fluids — not less than, I did — and laughed awkwardly. 

After an hour or so of dinner and drinks, instructors from the Bear Grylls Survival Academy launched themselves by first title solely. There have been three Brits — Fraser, John, and Mark — and Sean, who launched himself as a rope specialist and the one South African within the group. 

Throughout their presentation, they defined that journey racing overlaps with out of doors survival in that you must depend on your wits, your expertise, and most significantly, your crew. With that mentioned, they defined that the course was designed to reflect what occurred within the movie, so not solely would we be experiencing survival situations but in addition carry a canine, a motorbike, and a flag. What’s extra, we’d must train “situational consciousness” by searching for flags after which take group selfies by the flag for factors. 


The following morning, the bottom outdoors the resort was moist from an in a single day rain. A half-moon hung within the sky and ravens cawed from the timber above. We shuttled over in an electrical van again to the venue the place we ate the evening earlier than for breakfast – they served quiche, a wide range of breakfast meats, and an assortment of pastries. With our bellies full, we departed for a full day of actions. 

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A pair on Group 2 “sassing” round. Picture: Junket Productions Inc

After stretching and smearing mud on our faces, the instructors expanded the idea of situational consciousness. John, who informed us the day can be “mega,” taught us “sass!” which nobody appeared to know if it was slang or an acronym. However it was used as a sort of warfare cry. You yelled “sass!” while you encountered a low-hanging department. “Sass!” while you noticed a rock you might journey on. And “sass!” when encountering any impediment or hazard. 

Since I used to be on Group 2, we practiced our sass expertise whereas the opposite crew went zip lining. I paired up with fellow Chicagoan Joey, who was a health influencer, writer, and occasional TV present host. We have been about the identical top and weight, however his physique was sculpted like a bodybuilder — as a result of he was a bodybuilder!

Joey and I took turns swinging our arms at one another as in the event that they have been tree branches whereas the opposite individual blocked and yelled “sass!” It was arduous to not really feel foolish, however the idea they needed to impress upon us was the significance of not simply noticing hazard however warning these with you of the hazard as effectively. 

After 20 or half-hour of sassing round, it was our flip to zip line. For it, the survival instructors informed us the ability’s staff would take the lead for the instruction and lead us by the expertise. The 2 younger instructors Travis and Ricky labored as a comedy duo as they cracked jokes and defined the dry dos and don’ts of zip lining.

Don’t let go of the handlebars.

Do sit again in your harness. 

Don’t “demise grip” the bar. 

Do pull your legs in earlier than the top. 

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Zip line instructors Travis, left, and Ricky. Picture: Daniel Terrill

Sporting harnesses and helmets, we loaded again into the electrical van for the 10-minute drive to the highest of the mountain. On the prime, the dreary climate appeared to match what we have been feeling. The temperature had dropped and the wind picked up.

Ziplining Down a Mountain

In Arthur, Mild and his crew bump into an deserted zip line early of their race. They see it as a chance to rapidly descend an space with their mountain bikes. It’s one of many extra thrilling moments as one of many characters will get caught on a worn-out a part of the road and Mild has to unbuckle himself, dangle above 100 toes off of the bottom, and climb round her to assist. 

Most people on my crew have been simply nervous about zip lining for the primary time. As for me, I hid my nervousness by joking. I made feedback like “At this top, the helmet wears you for cover” and “The autumn received’t kill you, however it’ll most likely break your leg.” Nevertheless, I used to be additionally the primary in line to go. I’d prefer to say I took cues from Lindnord who advocates main by instance, however I actually simply needed to overcome my worry. 

Regardless of my emotions, I trusted the gear and the protection test. I knew as quickly as I went that I’d recover from no matter anxiousness I felt. Forward of zipping, the zip line crew performed a 10-point security test, which concerned tugging on the entire connection factors together with my helmet. I made one remaining joke – I requested “How far’s the drop?” to which Ricky mentioned, “Don’t fear about it” — and jumped from the platform. 

I liken driving a zipper line for the primary time to a toddler taking place a slide at a playground for the primary time. It’s scary but exhilarating after which it simply feels enjoyable. As I zipped throughout the road at speeds as quick as 35 miles per hour, I bought a panoramic view of the encompassing panorama and Pacific Ocean. Out of the 5 zip traces, the longest one was a little bit greater than 1,000 toes lengthy, so it lasted about 20 seconds. 

The Alpine Scramble

Up subsequent, the Bear Grylls instructors informed us that we’d be alpine scrambling after which had us depend our steps so we’d know our 100-meter tempo. As we walked and counted, we requested one another, “What’s alpine scrambling?” and no one appeared to know. 

Just a few hundred meters down we stopped at a spot with an assortment of drugs unfold out evenly. We as soon as once more placed on a harness and helmet. Then, we every grabbed a brief piece of rope, and teacher Sean, the rope man, took over the instruction. He confirmed us how you can tie three sorts of knots: an alpine butterfly, a clove hitch, and a munter hitch. 

To say Sean was merely a rope specialist may not do it justice. He had a certification within the ability. What’s extra, he’s an expert and aggressive arborist, so he’s all the time climbing timber and dealing with chainsaws, along with being a lead teacher for the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. 

After what felt like an hour of tying knots, they gave each groups a 25-meter rope and had us resolve which knot we must always use to connect with it. We agreed with the alpine butterfly. Then, we found what the alpine scramble was. 

Whereas tied collectively, we went on what turned out to be a brief however steep, muddy hike. The instructors mapped out a route that went up a grade that was greater than a hill however not fairly a wall with floor that was gentle and muddy. 

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An alpine scramble selfie by Group 1. Picture: Junket Productions Inc
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Mikael Lindnord who impressed the film rappelling down the steep hill. Picture: Daniel Terrill

Talking for myself, probably the most difficult half about it was strolling with a bunch. As we every adhered to the recommendation of the instructors and secured positive footing alongside the trail, we bunched up typically. We didn’t transfer at a gradual tempo however somewhat walked and stopped, then walked and stopped, then . . .

After we bought to the top, we rappelled down the hill. We walked over to what seemed like a retired pool that was remodeled right into a drainage ditch. We have been tasked with fashioning a rope and two wood poles right into a stretcher after which transporting a “wounded” crew member by the ditch whereas taking selfies alongside the best way. It sounds extra difficult than it was. 

Though they didn’t alpine scramble within the film, there have been a whole lot of small issues that did join. Arthur used his “sass” to cease others from strolling off a cliff and a teammate was injured and needed to be carried, however I believe the most important connection was inadvertent. What made the problem so difficult was that it rained arduous and the wind picked up significantly. It was the closest factor to struggling we’d endure that day. 

By the top, we have been soaked, chilly, and uncomfortable – simply in time for the sunshine and lunch!

Bugs & Meatballs

Consuming bugs and scavenged meals is Bear Grylls’ factor. Simply begin typing “Bear Grylls eats” right into a search engine and also you’ll discover a library of content material. Whereas I don’t suppose it’s as nice a team-building train as alpine scrambling or zip lining, consuming the grossest factor you could find in entrance of your friends is among the largest flexes you are able to do. Plus, it’s fairly enjoyable to look at. 

Standing in line subsequent to Joey, we have been paired as much as eat dung beetles and mealworms collectively, which we did with out hesitation. Now, they didn’t style unhealthy. They kind of jogged my memory of unflavored peanuts. The ick issue was the dry, crunchy texture and the truth that they have been dung beetles and mealworms. 

Nonetheless, neither Mild nor Lindnord (who was taking part within the day’s occasions) ate bugs throughout their journey race. They did, nevertheless, eat meatballs. Wayfayrer Meatballs to be actual. After ending a leg of the race, Mild sits all the way down to benefit from the balls of meat. Arthur, who was not but named Arthur, watches him eat and patiently waits for scraps. Eager to be sort to the canine, Mild shares a pair and the remaining is historical past. 

Save Arthur!

Kayaking was the final occasion of the journey and a pivotal second in Arthur the King. I received’t spoil the context, however within the film, Mild and his crew are compelled to go away Arthur behind forward of kayaking. The canine follows, swimming so far as he can earlier than struggling after which Mild unsurprisingly saves him. So we finally needed to attempt to save Arthur. 

Kayaking was the occasion I used to be least obsessed with as a result of I didn’t significantly need to get moist, and I believed the 55-degree climate would possibly’ve been snug on land, however not a lot within the water. Regardless of my emotions, I selected to as a substitute totally embrace the chance and expertise. 

The kayak teacher went by the directions. Whereas all of it appeared pretty simple, he pressured one piece of recommendation: “When you solely keep in mind one factor, be certain it’s BBF.” He defined that in case you fall out of the kayak, the sequence you must observe to get again in is stomach, butt, after which toes.

arthur the king
Your humble writer after being tipped out of the kayak. Picture: Junket Productions Inc

I paired up with Jeremy, who labored for Film Information, to share a kayak and it couldn’t have been a greater match-up. We have been almost similar in top, weight, and construct and we shared a ardour for out of doors actions.

Out on the water, teacher Sean had us race out to 1 finish of the shoreline. With our lengthy arms, Jeremy and I have been quick – most likely the quickest on the market (or probably the most aggressive). We paddled arduous. Every stroke reached deep into the water as we pulled ourselves throughout. We have been the primary to achieve the top. 

Whereas we waited for the opposite kayaks to complete, I let my arms calm down and I loved the sunshine. Then, Sean identified to the opposite finish and introduced that our goal was on the different finish the place one other teacher wearing a canine costume was treading water. They implied that the crew who saved him wins. 

Regardless of our fatigue, Jeremy and I raced over. We once more paddled arduous and quick. We ended up slipping in simply forward of the lead boat to achieve Arthur first. We have been happy with ourselves for pushing by and embracing the “battle.” Then, the trainer within the Arthur costume mentioned: “Are you able to be tipped over?” and proceeded to tip over our kayak. 

Luckily, the water was not as chilly as I had anticipated. Whereas our life jackets saved us afloat, we evenly treaded water and pushed the kayak upright. Jeremy swam over to the opposite facet of the kayak for counterweight. After which we made good on the little little bit of instruction we acquired. I pulled myself in, beginning with my stomach, rotated onto my butt, after which introduced my toes inside. I leaned over to the other facet of Jeremy so he might do the identical. 

Positive, it was a little bit deceiving to be duped into saving somebody solely to be deliberately pulled in. However for me, it was a kind of moments the place I used to be glad issues labored out the best way they did. Though issues technically went unhealthy as a result of I fell (or tipped) out of the kayak, I’d’ve been disenchanted if it hadn’t occurred. 

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The “Arthur the King” class after finishing the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. Picture: Junket Productions Inc.

I Survived Catalina Island

In addition to teamwork and loyalty, one of many major themes within the film is struggling. As endurance athletes, the characters make notice of it repeatedly, whether or not they endure by exhaustion, uncooked and bloody heels, or dehydration, however they are saying it with a smile, suggesting that struggling by a bodily problem results in satisfaction. I couldn’t assist however see the parallel between that and the workouts we had deliberate on Catalina Island. 

Once I replicate on my weekend journey, many mentioned they felt sore and drained after the entire actions. Everyone complained at one level or one other about being chilly and moist and the way disgusting it was to eat bugs. However there was additionally pleasure and cheering all through the day. Whereas I wouldn’t describe the expertise as struggling, I’d name it a struggling sampler and a style of journey. 

Arthur the King can be in theaters starting March 15, 2024.

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