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How to Find Your Mates at a Festival

We've compiled a list of the most efficient search strategies with the help of rescuers, robots and sharks.

af Joost Mollen
12 august 2015, 9:44am

This festival-goer found out just how dangerous it is to veer wild. Photo by Jake Lewis.

This article originally appeared on VICE Benelux

Generally speaking, your friends play a pretty crucial role in your enjoyment of a festival. Which is why it's a shame when you end up losing them as soon as you pass security. Before you've even had the chance to force the words "left of the speakers by the main stage" through your clenched jaws, all your mates have been absorbed into an amorphous mass of hammered festival-goers.

You'll be happy to know that finding your team doesn't require reinventing the wheel; There's people who track down others for a living – some because it's their job and others because they aren't actually people but instead a hungry shark looking for food. These guys have already come up with some pretty efficient search strategies. We rounded them up to make that cold and lonely trek across the festival site, as short and painless as possible.

The Robot

Illustrations by Father Futureback

It's 2015; leave the searching to a robot. The MAVRIC is an autonomous search robot that is used in studies of foraging and food search patterns in animals. MAVRIC's search pattern is probably the closest thing to the bewildered and wavering swagger of the average festival-goer – in fact, it has been christened the "drunken sailor's walk" by researchers.

Here's how to copy MAVRIC: Start at the entrance of the festival, pick the direction you're going to waddle in and then just go wherever your mood takes you. Give in to gravity every so often so you veer from left to right a bit and can keep a close eye on all the sides of the festival site. Keep this up until you've found your friends, but make sure you see them before they see you. If they see you waddling about like a penguin on ketamine, they'll probably try and drop you off at the first aid tent and you'll lose them again.

The Shark

Don't let a few picturesque snaps of coral reefs fool you: Oceans are vast and deserted wet plains, kind of like a festival campsite after a torrential downpour. Sharks have had the last 420 million years to come up with the best way to find food. Normally, a shark moves more of less randomly through the ocean, but when it can't find any prey, it switches from its regular swimming pattern to a Lévy flight: a combination of longer linear movements and short, random bursts.

First, study your direct surroundings and see if you can find your friends in the area that you're already in. If you can't, walk in a more of less straight line in another direction for a bit, and start looking carefully in the small patch of the festival site you're in again. Repeat this pattern and you will find your friends. Probably.

The Criminalist

Criminalists that specialise in forensic science (like those guys on CSI) have a whole slew of different search patterns to find and collect evidence. One of those patterns is the spiral search method, where you walk in a circle from the outer edges of the crime scene to the centre – this is often used in arson cases for example.

The process can also be reversed for, say, a bomb explosion or a dead body. Go to the place where your knowledge of your friends whereabouts died a tragic death, and walk outwards in an expanding spiral from that point. Eventually you will find your friends – probably just in time to catch you as you dizzily fall to the ground.

The Rescue Helicopter

For most of us, endlessly looking for specific people is enough reason to sink into a terrible funk, but some people actually like it so much that they decide to do it professionally: These guys are called "rescue workers". And you bet you'd be happy to see them if you happen to go overboard on a ship, or the only thing peeping out above the snow after an avalanche is your big toe.

One of the search patterns that search and rescue teams use is in the shape of a propeller, or three triangles. For starters, identify an easily recognisable starting point – like the portaloos or a puddle of vomit with a distinctive colour pallet. Walk in a straight line, turn 120 degrees to the left and repeat, so you work your way back to your starting point in a triangle. Keep walking straight on and make a new triangle. Repeat. If search and rescue teams can dig up snowed under cross-country skiers with this technique, you should be able to find your drunken mates.

The Brick

What would a brick do in this situation? It wouldn't go looking for you, it'd probably just lie there and wait to be found. Lie down in the grass somewhere and wait until your friends find you. The chance of that happening isn't very big, by the way. Let's say there are 60,000 people walking around and you've lost four mates. Because you're lying on the ground and the entire festival population is moving past you, there's an equal chance for every person to be one of your friends.

Assuming your friends did manage to stay together, you can think of them as one person. That means that for every person that steps over you, the chance is (1 / (60000 - 4)) or 0.00166677778 percent that you will find them again. If you take into consideration that a large part of the festival population will step over you more than once and you'll be almost-stepped-on by the same pair of muddy wellies multiple times, after some complicated math you end up with the simple answer to stop being so fucking lazy and just go and find your friends, you moron.

A Final Option

Photo by Jake Lewis

Don't lose your friends. Ever thought about that?

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When Elves and Orcs Take Selfies: I Visited Europe's Biggest Fantasy Festival

Whips, Chains, Paddles and Puppies: Scenes from the Folsom Street East Festival

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