Riptide editor Michael Saunders got his hands on an exclusive pre-release copy to find out.
Words by Michael Saunders
Holding On might go down as one of the most highly-anticipated bodyboarding films ever made. As the first-ever feature length documentary in bodyboarding, and boasting big budget post-production, including narration by Australian cinema legend David Wenham (Lord of the Rings, 300, SeaChange, Blinky Bill), the level of hype and expectation has reached fever pitch.
The documentary is a coming of age story that follows the journey of six young men from Cronulla, (Dave Ballard, Nathan “Nugget” Purcell, Matt Percy, Adam “Wingnut” Smith, Christian “Rissole” Rinuccini and Mark Fordham) who became known as the “Skid Kids,” and went on to change the face of bodyboarding.
The film begins in the halcyon days of 1970s Cronulla, where long blonde locks and tanned skin was almost a prerequisite for every bona-fide local, and standup surfing reigned supreme from the Point down to Wanda. The story goes into the invention of the bodyboard by Hawaii’s Tom Morey followed by bodyboarding pioneer Chaz McCall (father of renowned bodyboarder and Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall) decision to pack his bags from the grey cold beaches of Brighton, UK and move to the sunny shores of Cronulla. It was there that McCall got his hands on a Morey Boogie and was one of the first to ride the seemingly “unrideable” wave of Shark Island, located 250m offshore from Cronulla Point.
Things are then fast tracked into the 1980s where Australian bodyboarding legends Doug Robson and Warren Feinbeer make a name for themselves by riding the Island in big conditions, eventually resulting in Wazza breaking his back. It was from there the young and hungry “Skid Kids” of Ballard, Percy and Nugget (soon followed by Wingnut, Fordham and Rissole) cement their spot as Shark Island locals along with making a name for themselves in competitions and in bodyboarding media.
Things stay in sequential order throughout the documentary, going into detail of some of the high points and low points of the Skid Kids progression from bodyboarding burnouts to international stars. Some of the highlights include being blacklisted by the Australian Bodyboarding Association, an embarrassing role in the film Ripping the Pit, the birth of Underground Tapes, Wingnut’s mental struggles, the death of Brett Young, the crash of the bodyboarding industry and the creation of the Shark Island Challenge.
It’s fair to say this film covers a lot of ground but somehow manages to pack it into a tidy 81 minutes, complete with some amazing archival footage of the glory days of bodyboarding along with insane Shark Island vision. Make no mistake this is a documentary, but the film manages to provide enough action to keep everyone from the frothing grommet to the older generation entertained.
Holding On features in-depth interviews with all of the Skid Kids and Shark Island locals (Wingnut, Nugget, Percy, Ballard, Rissole, Fordham, Wazza and Robson) along with some of the most renowned names in bodyboarding history including Mike “Eppo” Eppelstun, Mike Stewart, Guilherme Tamega, Nick Gibbs, Chris Stroh, Jeff Hubbard, Ben Player and more. It also features candid interviews from those outside the bodyboarding industry including former professional surfer Luke Egan, renowned surfing journalist Derek Reilly and former professional rugby league player Eric Groth Jr.
One of the biggest complaints of any documentary is a lack of research and missing the real story, fortunately this is not the case. Holding On creators Simon Bruncke and Trent Beattie went above and beyond in their attempts to dig up all the good and bad of the sport during the 80s and 90s. Some of the old footage, mostly dug from the depths of Chris Stroh’s video vault, will leave you in tears of laughter.
With Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall calling the shots on the music, you can guarantee this film is going to feature a large dose of heavy rock, hardcore and punk, which works perfect with some of the best Shark Island footage over the decades.
Honestly, there is not much that we can find wrong in this documentary. It toes the line between informative and entertaining perfectly and any request for “more of something” could create an imbalance and could drag down the entire rhythm of the film. However, in saying that, some areas were glossed over, such as the many questions left unanswered about the period between Brett Young’s Ripping The Pit fame and his tragic death in Japan. But again, it is hard to fit so much into an 80 minute documentary, and unfortunately, some things had to hit the editing room floor.
With excellent interviews, amazing footage and top shelf post production, Holding On is an amazing and comprehensive insight into one of the most important eras in bodyboarding history. While the interviews and research provide an amazing insight into the Cronulla and Australian bodyboarding scene, the epic footage is where the documentary hangs its hat and would leave any bodyboarder proud of their sport. A documentary that provides an accurate insight into what is often a misunderstood sport has been a long time coming, and, thankfully, the creators have hit the nail on the head. A must see movie for all bodyboarders, past and present.