Walking on Water

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Walking on Water Movie Poster Image
Sports docu merges surfing with Christianity.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 73 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Offers a glimpse into the surfing cultures of other countries and discusses the effects Christianity has on international surfers' lives. Also speaks frankly about the difficulties not often associated with being a successful touring surfer -- the months away from family and friends, and the constant risk of injury while surfing.

Positive Messages

People from diverse cultures -- from California to Peru, from Australia to France, from Indonesia to South Africa -- are brought together through a mutual love of surfing. Through example and talk, Bryan and the older surfers try to show that it is better to give to receive, and speak of how Christianity and faith in God has given them a foundation in their lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bryan Jennings, once mentored at age 14 and taken on a world-wide surfing tour, is now older, and returning the favor to two teenage surfers. One of the surfers, Tyler, maintains a positive attitude in the aftermath of his parents' divorce, and his sister being diagnosed with brain cancer. The guys meet Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost one of her arms from a shark attack, but refuses to let that stop her from surfing. The surfers have a strong faith that guides them and encourages them to connect with others in a positive way.

Violence & Scariness

Some discussion of the dangers of surfing, including the shark attack that caused one surfer to lose her arm.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Walking on Water is a surfing documentary with a theme of Christianity running throughout. Alongside lots of montages of surfers riding gigantic waves, there are many moments where the surfers talk about how important Christianity is in their day-to-day lives, and how it is the foundation of their identity. There are positive messages throughout, such as Bryan Jennings returning a favor done for him as a teenager by taking along two teen surfers on their first world-wide surfing tour, as well as many positive cultural exchanges. There is also honest talk of the less glamorous aspects of being a professional surfer -- the months away from family and friends, and the ever-present danger each time a surfer rides the waves -- as shown when the boys meet Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost one of her arms after a shark attack.

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What's the story?

Mentored as a teenage surfer, now-grown Bryan Jennings decides to return the favor and take two teenagers on a world tour of surfing locales. The two boys -- Tyler and Luke -- ride waves with Bryan in Hawaii, Peru, France, Australia, South Africa, and Indonesia. In each country, they experience the culture and meet local surfers. Through example and through words, Bryan tries to teach Tyler and Luke lessons in providing charity and kindness to those less fortunate, and how to put their Christian beliefs into practice. Along the way, they meet surfers who practice Christianity, and discuss how their faith keeps them grounded and sustains them through difficult times.

Is it any good?

Perhaps the title should be a giveaway, but this inspiring film is as much about the Christian faith of the featured surfers as it is about surfing. Like most surfing documentaries, there are plenty of montages of athletes riding giant waves, but unlike most surfing documentaries, many scenes are also devoted to the surfers discussing how faith sustains them through the good times and bad.

For the faithful with an interest in surfing or sports in general, this heartwarming documentary will provide a reinforcement of the belief in the value of a strong religious foundation. But it's not perfect -- the flaw in the documentary is that it's supposed to be about surfing, and the religious messages sometimes feel shoehorned between the action montages leaving little time to show the older and younger surfers bonding in meaningful ways. Those who are turned off by heavy religious discussions should probably look elsewhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this documentary brings religion into a film about surfing. Did you expect this documentary to be as much about Christianity as it is about surfing? Who is the target audience of this film?

  • As the surfers travel from one continent to the next, how are the different cultures conveyed in the documentary?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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