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How to walk on water

Updated on June 9, 2010
Running on water?
Running on water?

Liquid Mountaineering - The Truth

All the cool kids in Europe are taking up liquid mountaineering (that’s walking on water if you’re unfamiliar with the craze). There’s only one snag to attaining prophet-like superpowers: it seems you’ll need a pair of Hi-Tec shoes first.

Since the end of April 2010, more than four million people have been introduced to the world’s latest extreme sport through a video titled "Liquid Mountaineering" spreading virally via YouTube. The documentary-style clip features a bunch of guys in Gerês, Portugal, who have developed “liquid mountaineering” – walking (or running) on water. The first guy interviewed is “Sebastian Vanderwerf”  and claims that the idea is “Ulf’s brainchild”; Ulf being one of his Jesus-like mates. The video then goes on to show early attempts and how the aquatic mountaineers get progressively better at their art, achieving eight to 12 steps on water before plunging in. ‘

As described on the Liquid Mountaineering blog: “Liquid Mountaineering is a new sport which is attempting to achieve what man has tried to do for centuries: walk on water. Or to be more precise: running on water. We are developing the sport from scratch. By accident we found out that the right water repellent equipment you can run across bodies of water, just like a stone skimming the surface. It’s a difficult technique, involving the right water conditions, making use of the surface tension, speed and angle. It’s hard work to make even a few steps, but once you get the hang of it, you actually do get some distance!”

Watch the original video here

The video is just plausible enough that some people fell for it hook, line and (excuse the pun) sinker. But the phrase “the right water repellent equipment” was the first clue that this could well be an undercover marketing campaign. In the video, the guys mention discovering these 100% water-repellent shoes “by mistake”; a serendipity that helps them achieve their miraculous feat. If you look closely in the video you will also notice the subtle Hi-Tec branding on their clothing (T-shirts, caps and pullovers). However, the brand or model of shoe is never mentioned.

Initially, Hi-Tec came over all coy about its speculated involvement in the project. On May 17, Hi-Tec UK released a statement on the phenomenon. “We have recently been made aware of a viral film which is sweeping the internet worldwide, under the name Liquid Mountaineering. After some investigation we have found out that Hi-Tec Poland was contacted by these guys and has supplied a few pairs of shoes and some apparel as ‘sponsorship’ for their crazy new sport.” Not exactly an outright denial that the company was behind the campaign. According to an article on, Hi-Tec’s US PR manager Dayna Panales stated: “We had zero to do with that. Nothing. This is not a campaign on our part at all.” A plausible denial? Perhaps the folks in the US simply didn’t know what the European division was up to.

However, Hi-Tec finally admitted that it was behind the liquid mountaineering video.

The Making of the Hi-Tec Liquid Mountaineering Video

Simon Bonham, the group head of marketing at Hi-Tec explains the reasoning behind the campaign. “The idea was to take a traditional form of marketing and totally turn it on its head, in the process capturing the fun, spirited side of our brand.” To do so, Hi-Tec called in Amsterdam agency CCCP, with a brief to “make Hi-Tec famous”.

And CCCP rose to the challenge. As Bonham says: “The reaction to the viral has surpassed all expectations; with people all over the world debating whether this could indeed be possible or not and even trying to do their own Liquid Mountaineering. We’ve even seen a number of entertaining attempts appear on YouTube.”

For an undercover advertising campaign, Hi-Tec and CCCP certainly went to a lot of effort. While the video was posted on YouTube only on 28 April, the first post on the Liquid Mountaineering blog was on 15 November 2009, and the Facebook page was also set up last year. It’s the care that’s gone into developing the backstory that made the campaign work. Because, despite being Hi-Tec’s baby, liquid mountaineering genuinely appears to be less about the gear one uses, and more about the personal experience.

“To run over water is not comparable to anything you are familiar with, like ice or any other surface for that matter. It feels more like running on an invisible carpet that could tear at any moment. When you do actually make a perfect run is just an awesome feeling. We are still pioneering the sport and the techniques to run across water, but we’re pretty sure it could be the next big thing. We’re truly lucky to live in this historic time when technology and human skill come together to make the impossible possible,” states Ulf in his first blog post.

Ultimately, the campaign is marketing Hi-Tec's footwear.  "Ion-mask™ technology by P2i Ltd is very real and is one of our core technologies used within some of our products" states the Hi-Tec website.

Copycat attempts

Copycat Attempts

And, believe it or not, people have started subscribing to Ulf’s philosophy in real life. There have been a number of copycat videos of people attempting to get into the psychology and physics of Liquid Mountaineering... but rather unsuccessfully. Take a look at the results

For example, Ed Mancebo and Richard C founded the Seattle Liquid Mountaineering Club in Seattle, and filmed their own attempt at walking on water. At the end of the video the pair sum up what they’ve achieved. “Have we taken a step on water? No. Have we taken a step in the right direction? Yes,” they state.

And perhaps one of the greatest things about this campaign. It makes you think beyond plain marketing and aligns with a spirit of adventure and pushing physical boundaries.

Sure, Liquid Mountaineering may have begun life as a make-believe idea. But its success makes it as real as a viral campaign gets.

Walking on Water

Of course, walking on water has fascinated man for millennia as Jesus was reported in the Bible to have achieved this miracle. Certain street magicians have tried to dupe us into believing that they too can accomplish this miraculous task. Take Criss Angel in this video for example.

But here's a following video that explains how he - and most probably the Liquid Mountaineers - also managed to achieve the impossible.

How to walk on water

As we can see, humans walking on water requires some sneaky deception and is physically impossible beyond some supernatural power. In this video, New Scientist explains why humans can't walk on water, without some form of assistance in utilizing Archimedes' principle of displacement.

His most famous theorem states that a body immersed in a fluid is subject to an upward force (buoyancy) equal in magnitude to the weight of fluid it displaces. 

Legend has it that Archimedes discovered the principle of displacement while getting into his full bath. He realized that the water that overflowed from the tub was equal in volume to the submerged part of his body. 

The legend continues in saying that Archimedes was so excited with his discovery that he hopped out of the bath and rushed naked into the street yelling: "Eureka!" "Eureka!" - Greek for "I have found it!"


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    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Seems to me that the key would lie in making yourself lighter - like levitating across water. Then you wouldn't have to run.

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      Didn't Mythbusters do a show on this?

    • Nomascus concolor profile image

      Nomascus concolor 5 years ago from A Country called Earth

      This got to me too... I guess I should be ashamed of it but I did beleive it for a sec, before they published the making off. When it is about running on water, I think that Usain Bolt deserves a shot... :)

    • profile image

      Wilson 7 years ago

      isn't it physically possible to run on water bare foot? i mean you need to be extremely fit and you need to take fast and outward steps not large thumping ones for with enough force water tension holds long enough for us to hit it and feel the hardness, like when we do a belly flop. What i'm trying to get at is it's possible just highly unlikely and maybe 5-6 steps at most just like a skimming rock

    • Cattleprod Media profile image

      Cattleprod Media 7 years ago from Johannesburg

      Thanks for the feedback Steve. Much appreciated. I too got fooled at first, but the minute I saw someone call "Fake" online I started to look at the subtle and not-so-subtle hints in the videos and then I thought it was brilliant :)

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Hahaha. So easy to get sucked in. I believed it too, until I read on. I suppose the promoters of this thing are crazy and cool. It was a neat deception.