Review: Holding On – The First Tell-All Documentary On The Sport Of Bodyboarding

Holding On is the untold story of The Skid Kids, the first ever feature length documentary on the sport of Bodyboarding. This tell-all film delves into the lives of pro bodyboarders; Dave Ballard, Matt Percy, Nathan “Nugget” Purcell, Mark Fordham, Adam “Wingnut” Smith and Christian “Rissole” Riguccini; a group of mates from Cronulla labelled by the media, ‘The Skid Kids’ because of their rebellious attitudes, tough family lives and lack of financial support.

Skid Kids Nathan Purcell, Matt Percy and Dave Ballard. Photo: Chris Stroh

This debut documentary by director Simon Bruncke, with narration from highly regarded cinema legend David Wenham (Lord of the Rings, 300, SeaChange, Blinky Bill) starts off in the 70’s with the invention of the bodyboard and the key characters that pioneered the sport in Australia, through to the 80’s when the previously deemed unridable reef break in Cronulla ‘Shark Island’ was put on the map, a wave that would go on to pave the way for The Skid Kids era. 

Adam “Wingnut” Smith charging Shark Island. Photo: Chris Stroh

By the time the early 90’s rolled around competition bodyboarding had become a soulless sport, event coordinators were holding events in locations they knew could pull crowds but the waves were well below average.

The Skid Kids boycotted the events and focussed on taming the beast in their backyard, Shark Island. This gave them more media attention than any competition would and they had the chance to showcase their skills in waves not many people would ever imagine riding.

This anti-establishment approach to competition bodyboarding, their not give a shit attitude in and out of the water and the way they pushed each other harder than any other bodyboarders on the planet in huge waves, gave them global recognition with a generation of young bodyboarders, changing the way people viewed and pursued the sport forever.

Christian “Rissole” Riguccini during the Shark Island Challenge. Photo: Chris Stroh

The film highlights the extreme highs and lows of the Skid Kids, from the Ripping The Pit video, a controversial pop song performed by bodyboarder Brett Young which brought him stardom, the retro pop song was considered an embarrassment to bodyboarders everywhere. Tragically, Brett died years later in a car accident. Prodigy Adam ‘Wingnut’ Smith’s rise to the top of the bodyboard world tour and the sell through of thousands of signature pro model boards to his sudden fall and disappearance off the tour due to mental illness.

The film also focusses on the market entry of big surf brands Rip Curl, Billabong, Quiksilver due to the boom of the sport in the early 90’s (thanks to the skid kids) and the brands complete abandonment only a few years later.

A focal point in the film is the on-going bodyboarder vs surfer debate, the film tells how one article in a surf mag sparked hatred toward bodyboarders which caused brutal violence in and out of the water and the rise of territorialism at some Australian surf breaks.

Screenshot from Holding On the movie

Holding On concludes with the success of the Shark Island challenge, a pro bodyboarding event hosted by Skid Kids Nathan “Nugget” Purcell and Mark Fordham. This prestigious event is said to have changed the dynamic and rewrote the book on competitive bodyboarding.

It was all eyes on the 2001 event, a day that would go down in bodyboarding history as one of the heaviest events ever held. The waves reached 12ft slamming directly onto the reef and the competitors weren’t pulling back, showing some of the heaviest wipeouts ever seen out Shark Island which drew a huge crowd and a media frenzy.

‘Guys were finishing their heat and going to hospital’ ‘It change the whole perspective of fuck, this is boarding’

one of many wipeouts in the 2001 Shark Island Challenge

Holding On is an informative, heartfelt documentary of mateship and the trials and tribulations of a group of kids turn international stars that changed a sport forever. The film will have you glued to your screen from start to finish with interviews from the sports greats and incredible unseen archival footage and images of the Skid Kids training ground, Shark Island. The film gives great insight into an era of bodyboarding that has never been told. Whether you’re a surfer, bodyboarder of just enjoy riding waves, this is a must watch film for all watermen.

You can now stream the whole film on Garage Entertainment: