->''"Put the [[CoolStarship Normandy]] in my hands and [[AcePilot I'll make her dance for you]]. Just don't tell me to get up and dance, unless, you know, you like the sound of snapping shinbones."''
--> -- '''Joker''', ''Videogame/MassEffect1''

This character is much like a duck: they're awkward and clumsy on land, but put them in the water or in the air? Poetry in motion.

There's a lot of variation in this trope. Usually the character is TheKlutz (or at least notably awkward) on land, but if given a chance they're very Graceful In Their Element. The variation comes in on what that more natural element might be. On the water they could be a champion swimmer, skier or sailor. Ice-wise they could be an angelic skater. In the air they might be an AcePilot. If machines are involved they'll be a BadassDriver with ImprobablePilotingSkills, and be able to turn a HumongousMecha into an ImpossiblyGracefulGiant. If fighting, dancing or ''both'' are involved, they may be a consummate DanceBattler.

This {{Hidden Depth|s}} is used either for humor or to add a level of dichotomy to a character. It can make them seem a bit otherworldly; they're helpless on land, but they're so graceful ''outside'' of it that it seems like they don't really belong in this world. This can be further reinforced if the awkwardness is due to a physical disability, so it becomes a case where putting someone in a new medium where they're on a level playing field with everyone else [[InspirationallyDisadvantaged lets them surpass their limitations.]]

To a certain extent this is TruthInTelevision. Moving in a different medium like asphalt, ice and zero-g vacuum requires an entirely new skill set that doesn't completely map out with bipedal terrestrial locomotion. While being naturally graceful and aware of kinesthetics makes learning skating or piloting easier, it's by no means a free pass.

SisterTrope to EloquentInMyNativeTongue.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* In ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'', while Akane [[DoesNotKnowHisOwnStrength doesn't know her own strength]] on land she is revealed to be a very gifted and graceful skater, unlike graceful-on-land Ranma.
* Aqua, a filler character in ''[[Manga/DragonBall Dragon Ball Z]]'', lumbers about on land like he just got out of bed. His instructor has to constantly remind him what to do. In the water, however, he suddenly looks a lot more alert, able to outspeed Goku like he was standing still and predict all of his movements.
* Akira Renbokoji in ''Anime/ValvraveTheLiberator'' is an extreme {{Hikikomori}}, and absolutely hates having to deal with people in person to the point that she starts freaking out and screams until they leave her alone. However, she is an expert computer hacker, and can work miracles while online. Her computer skills become increasingly important as the show goes on.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* In the DCUniverse, this is the background of one of the Sea Devils. He's a musclebound oaf on land, but he takes up diving and discovers he's a graceful swimmer.
* May apply to Awkwardman of the InferiorFive-- none of their cases takes place underwater.
* A milder example exists with Namor, the ComicBook/SubMariner. While he is by no means clumsy on land, it's been established he is much more agile and extremely fast (not to mention stronger) when he is in his element: the sea.
* Also applies to Spider-Man, comparatively. On open ground, he can manage a decent athletic run, or awkward but effective long jumps... but give him tall things to swing from and bounce off of and his entire mode of locomotion completely changes, and it becomes blatantly clear why people call him 'amazing', 'spectacular', and 'web-slinger'.
* Ehmte-Ciss-Ronn in ''ComicBook/{{Sillage}}''. He is a short, four legged green alien lawyer, the last person you would expect of any athletic feats. However, he comes from an amphibian race and is a graceful swimmer, a fact that might catch his would-be assassins by surprise when he changes his office into a SharkPool with a push of a button.

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[[folder: Fan Works ]]


* In ''Fanfic/AddressUnknown'', Derpy's element actually is on land, as her vision problems cause her bigger problems while flying, but once she's demoted to ground deliveries she proves to be an [[UnstoppableMailman unstoppable mailmare]].

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[[folder: Film -- Animated ]]

* Sid the sloth in ''WesternAnimation/IceAge'' is hardly graceful on land, but a throwaway gag showed him as a skilled ice skater while Diego and Manny slip and fall. This came in useful towards the end when it turns out he's equally good at skiing. And let's not forget the part where, upon losing part of his makeshift skis, he just starts snowboarding instead, becoming even more graceful. It is awesome.
* ''TheSecretOfNimh'' has Jeremy the Crow. Awkward on land to the point of being a [[TheDitz ditzy]] [[TheKlutz Klutz]], but in the air he's a flying ace.
* Orville the albatross in ''Disney/TheRescuers'' and his brother Wilbur in ''Disney/TheRescuersDownUnder''. Landing or taking off is an ordeal, but once in the air, pure poetry.
* The reason the stereotypically unhurried turtle sidekick in ''WesternAnimation/TheSwanPrincess'' is nicknamed "Speed" becomes abundantly clear the moment he's needed underwater.
* The very clumsy Alfredo Linguini in ''WesternAnimation/{{Ratatouille}}'' turns out to be exceedingly graceful on roller skates, bringing the dishes to every patron in the restaurant within two seconds via a complicated series of hairpin turns.

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[[folder: Film -- Live Action ]]

* Jar Jar from ''ThePhantomMenace'', anyone? Say what you want about his mental faculties and offensive racial stereotypes, but while this amphibian alien is a LethalKlutz on land, he's a fine swimmer in water.

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* Philip, the protagonist of the novel ''Literature/OfHumanBondage'', was born with a club foot and walks with a limp, but is a strong swimmer.
* Victor Krum in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire'' is described as duck-like on land, but fantastically gifted on a broomstick.
* In the ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga'', the Quaddies are a species gene-engineered to have four arms and no legs. In a gravity field, they're awkward and helpless, but in zero-G, they excel. Miles has rarely seen anything as beautiful as their zero-G ballet.
* Cho-Hag, the Algarian Chief of the Clan-Chiefs in the {{Belgariad}}. He was crippled at an early age but is a skilled horseman--which, in the equestrian-based Algar culture, is more important anyway.
* Vicar Allayn Maigwair, Captain General of ''Literature/{{Safehold}}'s'' [[CorruptChurch Church of God Awaiting]] is generally regarded as not very bright and near-useless in the political maneuvering that takes up most of the Church's actions in the first three or four books of the series. Once the Church begins active military operations, Maigwair proves himself a CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass as his ideas and strategies manage to catch the protagonists (and their near-omniscient spying capability) completely flat-footed and comes ''very'' close to conquering the Republic of Siddarmark.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'': In one episode Melora Pazlar, a Starfleet officer from a [[LightWorlder light world]], is assigned to the station; because her muscles are designed for a light world she has to wear a special full-body brace in order to get around, which she does very clumsily. At one point some baddies have invaded; the crew turns off the ArtificialGravity, and she's the only one who can move about, quickly taking out the bad guys.
* ''Series/{{Farscape}}'': Rygel XVI. Diminutive toad-like creature who rarely even walks on his own, preferring to use his Throne-Sled (hoverchair) for movement. This is because he's aquatic. When we see him swimming in "The Peacekeeper Wars" miniseries, he's extremely graceful.

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[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* In ''{{Mekton}} Zeta'', AcePilot Mark Benjamin Michaels is described as being "terminally clumsy outside of a cockpit".

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[[folder: Video Games ]]

* In ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'', the frog suit is great for swimming, but not for traversing land, where you need to resort to jumping constantly to move at a decent pace, as attempting to walk or dash will just make Mario move with extremely sluggish hops.
* Kine the Fish in ''VideoGame/{{Kirby}}'s Dream Land 2'', similarly to the previous example, is good at swimming, but can only move at a normal speed on the land by jumping, and can barely move by walking or dashing. [[VideoGame/KirbysDreamLand3 In the sequel]], however, he's able to dash around on land just as quickly as any of the other animal friends.
* [[PowerupMount Plesiosaurus and pteranodon]] from ''VideoGame/AdventureIsland'' are very clumsy on land, but they are very good swimmers and flyers respectively.
* Joker from ''Franchise/MassEffect''. He can only barely walk (slowly) on his feet due to brittle bone disease but is probably the best human starship pilot alive.
** The hanar are basically sentient jellyfish, and can only move on ground through the use of special fields that hold them up. In their native oceans, however, they can apparently move with astonishing speed and agility.
* Rena Hirose from ''VideoGame/AceCombat3Electrosphere'' may be a borderline example: she is not extraordinary clumsy but confined to indoors due to allergy to sunlight; flying planes with closed cockpits and external cameras is the only means for her to see the outside--and so she became a distinguished AcePilot.
** Captain Bartlett from ''VideoGame/AceCombat5TheUnsungWar'' makes reference to this when he's forced to drive a car while the player supports him from the air, claiming that only being able to move in two dimensions "really cramps my style".
* Cherrim in ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' is an otherwise forgettable Grass-type, but when it's sunny out, it blooms, granting its partners in double and triple battles boosted Attack and Special Defense. There is a reason why the final opponent in ''Pokémon Battle Revolution'' uses Cherrim in one of his teams, otherwise filled up completely with OlympusMons.
** Rotom is a FragileSpeedster on its own--it can pack some hurt, but it requires a lot of savvy from the planet to get a lot of mileage out of one. Once Rotom possesses a household electrical appliance, it becomes a LightningBruiser, with greatly increased stats and versatility. Appliance-Rotom has since become a staple Pokémon in competitive battling in all four environments, something ''very'' few Pokémon can claim.
** As more general examples, a number of Pokémon Abilities related to weather reflect this trope: Swift Swim (Speed doubles in the rain), Chlorophyll (Speed doubles in the sun), Sand Rush (Speed doubles in a sandstorm), Solar Power (Special Attack increases in the sun [[CastFromHitPoints but takes damage]]), Sand Force (certain attacks do more damage in a sandstorm), Sand Veil (evasion increases in a sandstorm), Snow Cloak (evasion increases in hail), Rain Dish (continually heals in the rain), and Ice Body (continually heals in hail).
* Sumia in ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'' is a CuteClumsyGirl with a tendency to trip over thin air. On a pegasus, she can pull a BigDamnHeroes move to pull her leader out of harm's way. [[spoiler: This is something her daughter also seems to inherit.]]

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original ]]

* ''Website/{{Starwalker}}'': Starwalker is a pilot and a ship. She can pull miracles in space but is awkward in an atmosphere.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* In ''WesternAnimation/TheTick'', the character Sewer Urchin becomes much less of a ''Film/RainMan''-like character when a case actually takes the group into the sewers. (The Tick and Arthur, conversely, begin to act the way Sewer Urchin does when he's above ground.)
* In ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' Teo is a master pilot able to outperform Aang ''without'' being able to [[BlowYouAway Airbend]]. He's also [[InspirationallyDisadvantaged in a wheelchair.]]

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Life ]]

* Quite a few animals that are highly adapted for life in the water, the air or the trees are often very clumsy when on solid ground, even if they're closely related to terrestrial kin:
** Seals. On shore they move with a kind of undulating motion that looks almost comical. Once they get into the water, they can give dolphins a run for their money.
** Most species of procellariiformes (the order of seabirds that includes albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters) are extremely clumsy on land, due to the large wingspans that make them graceful and efficient in the air. Albatrosses are nicknamed "Goonybirds" while on land.
** Many swifts and swallows, while among the most fast and deft fliers, are completely helpless if they ever end up on a flat surface. Their wings are too long to simply take off, and legs are only good for hanging on a tree, rock or edge of a nest. At best, they can clumsily hobble along or climb until they face a height enough for a diving start.
** Penguins as well, they waddle on land but cut through water like bullets.
** Hummingbirds have weak feet that are only really good at perching on branches, but they are among the best fliers in the bird world. They are capable of hovering in the air and even flying backward.
** Loons fall within this category too: While they're great on water, they are named so because of their behavior on land, where humans spend most of their time.
** Whenever people see sea turtles on beaches, they're only capable of dragging themselves along with their flippers, but they are much more adapted to life in the sea. The record holder for the fastest reptile is the Leatherback Sea Turtle.
** Sea snakes have the same problem that sea turtles have: They don't have the ventral scales that their land-based cousins have and only really leave the water to lay their eggs.
** A number of tree dwelling mammals move awkwardly when they find themselves on the ground. Sifaka lemurs need to make sideway hops on the ground since their arms are too short and the legs are too long for a quadrupedal gait. Certain bats and Colugo can only flop about and the Sloth can also only drag itself slowly (but surprisingly, they can swim by dog-paddling).
*** Of course Sloths hang from tree branches not moving at all like the pros that they are.
** Dragonflies, some of the best fliers among insects, ''can't'' walk. They can land for brief periods of time, but about all they can do when grounded is turn around.
* The fastest human runner alive can reach a top speed of just under 28 mph. The fastest human swimmer can reach 6 mph in the water. In contrast, a dolphin can swim at 25 mph. Its movement speed on land is considerably less than 6 mph.

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