I Have the High Ground, with a body of water substituted for the slender pole. As the name implies, Walk on Water involves a person who is somehow able to stand or walk on water. This may occasionally have a tactical use, but it is usually much more about looking cool.
A common variant is the ability to only run across water (frequently by Super Speed characters such as The Flash), which is just as cool, and somewhat more scientifically plausible — high speed is what enables thrown rocks to skip across water and jet-ski boats to (no pun intended) run; in these cases, losing speed or coming to a stop will result in the character sinking, requiring them to swim. Characters with flight might achieve a similar effect by hovering just about the surface, and those characters who like Making a Splash might use water powers instead.
The most well-known water-walker is probably Jesus Christ in the New Testament, who casually walked out over a raging sea (a feat few other water-walkers have ever matched — Jesus Was Way Cool indeed) to meet his disciples' boat. Disciple Peter followed suit, but his lack of faith caused him to sink beneath the water and he had to be saved by his master. Despite its Biblical origin, the trope is usually executed without an especially strong What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? feel to it, as the primary objective is, once again, about looking cool. This doesn't stop the occasional Baptist-Fundamentalist Media Watchdog from complaining about people other than Jesus being depicted as doing such a thing, despite that Peter walks on the water to Jesus almost immediately after seeing him.
Not to be confused with the 2004 Israeli movie of the same title. Compare with Walk, Don't Swim, which is about walking under water.
Milked for all it's worth in Naruto. Some of the most climactic battles of the series have taken place over a large body of water. Like their usage of I Have the High Ground, it's related to the "standard" ninja ability to channel chakra into the feet. Sometimes the animators forget that everything else is meant to sink — one filler episode showed huge clods of earth sitting happily on the surface.
Subverted in Ranma ½, in a scene in which Cologne is shown approaching the beach while apparently riding a wave, and the others comment on how a master of the martial arts can balance even on a twig floating on the water; at a suitably dramatic moment, however, the shark whose head Cologne has been standing on breaks the surface of the water.
At the beginning of the first episode, Mytho dances, apparently naked, on top of a lake, with Ahiru watching hidden in the rushes.
An underground lake is magically transformed into a dancing stage for the Magical Girl and her Dark Magical Girl rival to have a Swan Lake themed dance-off. (It Makes Sense in Context.) Fakir also uses it to fight crows, but when the battle turns in his favor, Kraehe causes the water beneath him to no longer magically hold his weight, which nearly causes him to drown.
D.Gray-Man's Tyki Mikk possesses the power to selectively interact with his environment. This means that, among other things, he can walk on water.
Subverted in an episode of Gundam X where it looks like someone is standing in the middle of a lake — only to reveal that he's actually standing right on top of his submarine.
Maybe more Moses than Jesus, but in Fullmetal Alchemist, when Hohenheim (who has godlike powers) goes to explore a dangerous cave where his path is blocked by water, he transmutes a smooth path out of the rocks under water and calmly walks across.
Near the end of the graphic novel Watchmen, as Dr. Manhattan notes his interest in creating life, he's standing on water. The implication is obvious.
In The Movie, the walking on water scene is visible in a commercial but lacks the symbolism.
Subverted in an issue of Superman: a priest asks him if he's able to walk on water, and Superman admits that yes, he can, but he wouldn't take advantage of the priest's faith like that. Although he does this in the Batcave in Kingdom Come.
A would-be girlfriend to Twilight Sparkle in A Stitch in Time (sequel to Hard Reset) tries to comprehend the idea of dating a mare who 'practically walks on water'. This being Twilight Sparkle, she does indeed do just this. And dares her to walk out onto the lake with her.
Metro Man from Megamind walks on water towards the beginning of the movie. All though he is in fact just floating directly above it. Watch his heels: they never actually touch the surface, only his toes do.
In Epic the lily pads actually glide to Queen Tara's feet so she has places to step over the water.
Films — Live-Action
In Superman II, in contrast to most alien visitations, when the three Kryptonian criminals touch down on planet "Houston", General Zod lands in a lake. He then proceeds, using his gravity-defying abilities, to rise above and walk on top of the surface of the lake, freaking out an onlooker nearby.
Bruce Almighty. When Bruce receives God's powers, one of the first things he does is walk on the surface of a puddle (which he's splashed himself on before). A few minutes later he and God take a stroll on a nearby body of water while the latter explains the rules.
In the X-Men movie, when various locations of and children in the Institute are being displayed as Xavier is giving Wolverine the tour, one is shown running (not-superspeed) horizontally across a tadpole pond.
Metatron does this at a pivotal moment in the movie Dogma.
Featured heavily in Wire Fu movies, particularly those which focus on the theme of spiritual enlightenment.
A Sword Fight takes place over a lake in one of the several Rashomon stories in Hero. At times, it's only the tips of their swords that need to touch the water in order for them to maintain placement. Somewhat justifiable as this particular fight is imaginary, serving as a "eulogy" by Nameless and Broken Sword to the "defeated" Flying Snow and is made up by the Emperor as part of his theory of what REALLY happend. He's wrong.
In the fourth Wishmaster film, the Djinn and Lisa are both standing on top of a lake in a vision he projects.
Spoofed in The Tuxedo when Jackie Chan's character absent-mindedly walks across a pool. It turns out that there is a large object just below the water.
Ironclad has what is arguably a symbolic example. The film begins and ends with a shot of the king standing ashore with his feet awash, which looks exactly as if he was standing on water. This fits the Medieval idea of the king being anointed by God and thus granted mystical abilities of a saint.
Used in one episode of the children's series Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left. Dovis uses her powers to walk across a pond and save her friend. They then need to find some way to logically explain how she did this to Michelle (which they did by putting a log there to walk across).
From the same author, the Void Trilogy actually has a character called Waterwalker (it's a nickname, actually, but he did do it). His ability is derived from the fact that he lives in a universe which allows Psychic Powers, and he's a very powerful telekinetic.
In the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, a fairly simple spell will allow a wizard to walk on water, although one has to be careful to maintain the masquerade and not let the muggles notice. Given a reasonably logical explanation — the spell redistributes the caster's weight to a large enough area around the feet that the surface tension of the water will support it.
Lightly deconstructed when Nita and Kit use the spell on the open sea. Making water hold their weight doesn't make it still, and keeping their balance on the waves over a long trek leaves some seldom-used leg muscles very sore the next day.
Elphaba does it in Wicked (the book), freezing the water at each step and she doesn't even notice it.
Polgara of the works of David Eddings manages it, in order to make a point. Her adversary, Chabat, has a much harder time of it when trying to copy her. Still, the characters in question are sorceresses...
In Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, the title character has an almost psychic ability to read snow and ice. Thus she can walk on a half frozen sea because she can see which ice patches will support her weight and which won't. The onlookers are suitably impressed.
Saber can do so in Fate/Zero, because of the blessing of the Lady of the Lake. It never comes up in Fate/stay night, however. Then, in Hollow Ataraxia, it turns out that despite being able to walk over water, she can't actually swim, and freaks out in a public pool. It is hilarious.
A line in the spy novel The Hungarian Game invoked this as a statement of implausibility: the narrator's co-worker claims to have done something subtle, and the narrator notes that a vision of this fellow acting subtly is instantly followed by a vision of their boss walking across Lake Tahoe.
In Illusions, Donald Shimoda does this trick to demonstrate his powers...and then follows it up by swimming in land.
In The Dresden Files, Harry once freezes part of a lake and runs across it, and invokes this.
In the Labyrinths of Echo series, Shurf Lonli-Lokli is revealed to be able to walk on water in Green Waters of Ishma. Max lampshades it, of course, including the fact that Shurf is wearing his snow white toga-like uniform at the time.
From Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Titan Hyperion does this. Percy copies him and they have a swordfight on water. Percy could probably do this all the time, but since he can breathe underwater and swim super fast there's no real need.
In Arrested Development, Michael's (developmentally disabled) love interest Rita leaves both him and the series as a whole by walking thoughtlessly across the surface of a swimming pool (in a Shout-Out to Being There, mentioned above). Michael assumes that his magician brother has rigged the pool as part of his performance, but GOB tells him, "No. That's not my trick, Michael." Immediately subverted in the 'next episode' trailer: "... It's my ILLUSION!!!"
Most seasons of Power Rangers (and, by default, Super Sentai) where the Rangers' powers revolve around the elements have the liquid-controlling Blue Ranger able to stand/walk/run on water. A rare few seasons with ninjas may do it too, but if a season has both elements and ninjas, it will never be a generic ninja ability.
Rory Bremner portrayed Tony Blair as walking on water in one sketch, soon after Blair was elected.
On the Misfits Christmas Episode, an evil Priest manages to acquire an array of flashy superpowers, including the ability to walk on water, in order to convince the local population that he is the second coming of Jesus (and so he can steal vast quantities of money from the poor and sexually abuse women without repercussions).
On an episode of Glee Will does this across a swimming pool whilst proposing to Emma.
In the 2010 christmas special episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson claims that as "J.C.", this means he can walk on water. May and Hammond point out he's just standing on a shallow bit, so make him walk to the left. He does and falls straight in the sea, where without missing a beat:
Clarkson: I've invented swimming!
Exit 57 had the song, "My Wife Dumped Me For a Guy Named Jesus":
Several very skilled magicians and illusionists have performed this particularly showy trick. It gets a good reaction.
Mindfreak's Criss Angel performs this on his reality-show, an episode of Las Vegas, and various locations in accordance to his characteristic street magic. He assures any who may be offended that his tricks have nothing to do with being prophetic or symbolic, it's just artistic and looks cool. The crowning achievement is when he does this on Lake Mead with random onlookers moving their hands under his feet to check for stilts. When he gets pretty far, he slowly sinks. Prior to that, he walks across a shark tank. The sharks were probably more confused than anything.
British magician Dynamo (real name Steven Frayne) once walked on the Thames, attracting quite the crowd. A canoe paddled through the path he had walked through.
Final Fantasy X has one scene where Yuna performs a sending by walking out onto open water, then performing the traditional sending dance while the water rises into a column under her feet. It's never explained how she did that and she never does it again. Considering Yuna's role in the plot, it was probably a case of What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?.
Shamans have a spell to that effect. It's almost useless, except to kill annoying guildmates when battling a boss that requires frequent submersion, escape certain monster, and impress new players. Nonetheless, this, coupled with the class' unique ability to resurrect themselves, has spawned many "Jesus was a Shaman" jokes. It's also useful when fishing pools, or doing any quest which sends you to the middle of a lake — since, in the latter case, you don't have to swim to shore in order to eat and drink.
Priests can use their Levitate spell to float a foot above the water's surface.
Death Knights do it in a slightly different way, freezing the water below them.
There is also a water walking potion. You get them as rewards for the daily fishing quests, from fishing in certain areas, or crafted by alchemists.
Waka does this too (in fact he's introduced standing on a lake). It seems all heavenly beings can.
Kirby can walk on water with the Ninja ability, as well as skim over it when going fast enough with the Wheel and Tornado abilities. He can also dash across it using the Water ability in Kirby's Return to Dream Land.
Water-walking in Achaea is accomplished using enchanted footwear or potions of levitation, which allow easy, quick movement just as on land. Without it, swimming is slow, hard work (for those who can't, for example, turn into a turtle...)
The Touhou series feature an example and a subversion. The former case is due to Yukari Yakumo's ability to manipulate boundaries, which she used to manipulate the boundary of truth and lie in order to invade the moon, through its mirrored image in a lake (she and her ghost friend Yuyuko Saigyouji invade the moon again through this method, in the official manga Silent Sinner in Blue); the subversion is that the 9th game, Phantasmagoria of Flower View, features the Sanzu River, through which the souls of the dead are ferried to be judged. This river is canonically described as unswimmable, and only a shinigami's boat is able to travel through it without sinking.
In Tactics Ogre, mermaids and ninjas can move over water tiles like land, and their sprites are shown as standing on the surface of the water.
Fisherman-cum-Tempest Devon has this ability in Ultima VIII: Pagan, and demonstrates it by going on a walk out to sea after defeating his sister in an elemental duel. The Avatar never learns to do this though, since unlike the other Magical and Elemental Powers in the game, tempestry is apparently limited to the Tenebrae royal family as an inborn talent.
A pair of magical boots allows Link to do this in The Adventure of Link, but only on one very specific body of water around the fifth palace. There's a Heart Container hidden there too.
Another pair of boots allows this (and walking on air) in Ocarina of Time... but only for about two seconds.
In the original Creatures, the title creatures can actually walk around on the ocean's surface. However, one needs to abuse certain objects to get them onto the sea in the first place, so it's rather obvious that walking on water was due to programming limitations and not deliberately invoked.
A puzzle in Tomb Raider: Revelation is solved by dumping some ancient Egyptian chemicals into water that allows you to walk on it (okay, ankle-deep, but that's more due to engine limitations).
The main Pokémon series doesn't use Suicune's ability to walk on water outside of cut scenes, but it is used in the third Pokémon Ranger game.
MOTHER 3's hackers found out during their fiddle that Flint and Claus can walk on water in some places they aren't meant to be in. For Flint's case, this glitch racks his Memetic Badass trait up even more.
The yellow ninja from G. G. Shinobi walks on water as his special power.
In Golden Sun's Mercury Lighthouse, once Mia prays to a statue of a Goddess, certain floor tiles light up and grant Isaac (and the Party in My Pocket) the ability to hop on the surface of the Lighthouse's pools and fountains for three steps (before falling in, flailing comically, and returning to where he was).
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: water walking is an alteration spell that allows you to walk (and run and jump) on water for a limited time, though you can also enchant it as a permanent effect. Very useful for moving around quickly in the many coastal and swampy areas of the map.
In the Heroes of Might and Magic series, heroes can walk on bodies of water via spells or artifacts that allow it. Pretty useful on maps with lots of water since traveling on a boat is usually less efficient than walking unless you waste precious skill or artifact slots to boost travel over water. In the sixth game, Sanctuary heroes can do this if their armies consist of nothing but Sanctuary units, all of whom are either aquatic or amphibious.
"Witch Time" in Bayonetta sometimes gives the opportunity to stand and move around on water for a short while.
The water walking potion in Terraria grants the player this ability.
Gameloft's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic video game has two locations, Ponyville and Canterlot. Both have rivers. In Canterlot, bridges exist over the rivers, and the ponies use them to cross. Ponyville has no bridges, and no way to build any. But it doesn't matter, because the Ponyville ponies can walk and stand on the rivers as if they were solid. (You can build ponds, though, and the ponies always detour around those.)
Durkon: Water Walk! Daigo: You had Water Walk prepared? Durkon: I live onna boat an' wear heavy armor. Daigo: Good point.
In the comic Triquetra Cats, Rain Soricha being a magic user in the realm of complete control over the domain of water does this frequently, even going as far as creating floating disks of water that she can use as ledges to leap on to gain access to high points.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Inevitably, Katara, a Water-bender, has come to express the ability. She most commonly achieves it by freezing ice around her feet and sort of skating. As her alter ego the Painted Lady, she does so without the freezing to better impress the villagers and Fire Nation soldiers.
In Code Lyoko, people possessed by XANA's specters in the real world gain the ability to move atop water.
Brother Blood in Teen Titans could do this, while strangely Aqualad could not!
Clam does it in one episode of Camp Lazlo, complete with heavenly choir and the onlooker's response "Holy mackerel".
Played with in I Am Weasel. At the end of an episode where everyone had been shunning Weasal only for him to prove himself a hero afterwards, he walks out onto a lake. The crowd rushes out after him and sink right down, prompting Weasal to quip, "You know, I really need to teach these guys to stick to the shallow part."
Certain insects, like the Gerridae, are capable of doing this thanks to cohesion (basically, they stand on the membrane the water's surface forms). Course, that's just plain ol' physics/chemistry.
This can be possible in dreams without even particularly trying due to a poor representation of physics leaving the surface of dream water to behave for one's dream self almost as it does for the abovementioned insects.
Real life aversion: A priest tried to prove that one could walk on water if one only had enough faith. He demonstrated using himself as the example. It didn't go as well as he expected, earning him a Darwin Award.
A self-proclaimed messiah in early 20th-century Australia took his followers out on a boat into the middle of a lake and asked them if they believed he could walk on water. When they replied "yes", he said, "Then there is no need for me to do it."
Of course, everyone can walk on water as long as it's frozen.
British midgit submarine crews in WWII were fond of the trick of 'parking' their submarine within half an inch of the surface and standing upon the hull to wave at passers by. It appeared they were standing on water.
There is a magic trick where a magician appears to walk across a pool, sometimes with people swimming underneath them. The trick involves walking on perspex blocks, which turn invisible if you get the angle of the audience and lighting right.
InuYasha: Inu-Yasha does this in the second movie, so he could attack a monster in the lake. In the anime filler arc about the panther youkai, the one with ice powers freezes a fairly large stream and walks across it.
In Air Gear anyone skilled enough on their Air Trecks can do this. So far only Gabishi and Orca have been seen doing it. Ikki does more of a gliding on water variant when he gets the Wind Regalia.
Cherry demonstrates this ability in an episode of Urusei Yatsura (along with a weird fossile bird animated by Lum). As many things in this show, not to take too seriously.
Pretty much all super-speedsters in any Super Hero continuity will be able to do this — The Flash and Quicksilver being perhaps the two most prominent. This is supposed to be physically possible, if you can sustain a speed in excess of 60 miles per hour, obviously a snap for these guys who consider going supersonic essentially just a brisk walk to them.
Films — Animation
The utter coolness of being able to run on water is repeatedly stressed in The Incredibles, especially since Dash didn't know that his Super Speed would enable him to do this. Then there's the moment where he is caught between two enemy hovercrafts and didn't know how to escape them: He comes to a stop, then sinks below the water's surface while the enemies crash into each other just inches above him. And later on, after the fight with the Omnidroid...
Dash: That was so cool when you threw that car! Mr. Incredible: Not as cool as you running on water!
Films — Live-Action
The very end of the movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, a Pilot Movie that never became a show, has Remo's mentor Chiun doing this to escape some villains and to show Remo he's still got a lot to learn. (The trick, it seems, is to run really fast.) Remo himself earlier runs across wet cement, while the Mook following him falls in and drowns. This is shown as being a kind of mind-over-matter trick of becoming lighter, not really faster.
By Interesting Times, Rincewind has apparently become an amazing runner — to the point that, when running from yet another hazard, he sprints across the surface of a koi pond without missing a step.
In David Farland's The Runelords series, there is at one point a story told about a messenger who used magic to become a speedster and run across a sea in order to deliver a warning. And then promptly died of old age, in a clear reference to the run of Marathon.
MythBusters thoroughly disproved this trope... or at least, one version of it. Their version involved supposed techniques for ninjas to make a quick getaway by scampering across the enemy stronghold's moat, fitting in perfectly with the What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? definition of this trope. They finally resort to cheating, by adding enough corn starch to make the entire thing a non-Newtonian fluid which briefly becomes a solid when pressure is applied to it; run fast enough and you can "walk" on "water", but the moment you stop you're going to sink.
They did another myth about riding a motorcycle on water - this time confirmed (for three hundred feet, anyway. Which is still pretty awesome).
In Smallville, Bart Allen is able to move fast enough to run on water without breaking the surface tension. It is implied that this is something Clark cannot do, until he finally starts doing this in Season 8.
Daphne in Heroes claims to be able to run all the way from the US to Paris at super-speed. Then again, this was all in her head, but it is possible she could still do it.
Sonic, as a speedster, has been able to do this in some games. He kind of has to — if he doesn't go fast enough, he'll sink underwater, where he has no traction on the water's bottom. He can't swim, so drowning is fairly guaranteed... Oh, and all this is in the Sonic X anime; he seems to be okay wading through water in the games. Unless it's one of the 3D games, which treat water like a Bottomless Pit unless you're moving fast enough to run on it (or slide across it rather oddly in the 06 game). Some of the Game Gear titles allow Sonic to curl up into a ball and bounce across the water's surface like a skimming stone.
Other characters in the series, such as Tails and Knuckles, are also capable of this.
Jude of Wild ARMs 4 does this in order to save a puppy drifting down a river. More precisely, he runs on leaves in the water using his Super Speed.
In World of Warcraft, players may obtain glyphs, which enhance the player's abilities in various ways. Rogues may obtain "Glyph of Blurred Speed", Which allows them to run over water while using sprint, which boosts their speed by quite a bit. Combine this with the fact that using sprint doesn't break stealth, and you can get certain builds of rogues sneaking across water. Also, standing completely still while using sprint (thus defeating its purpose) doesn't drop you in the water, surprisingly.
Donkey from Donkey Kong Country can do the "running" variant. If you roll off an edge you get to jump on the air; and if you do the air jump thing in the edge between air and water, you get to jump again. Rinse and repeat. Kiddy from the third game could do the same (that is, the orangutans do it, the monkeys don't).
The best Ninja Spy-enhanced Monk class in Dungeons & Dragons Online receives "Dance of the Water Strider", the ability to run over most watery areas in the game. Not quite as useful in that few quests have bodies of water handy to impress your co-questing friends, but still cool, nonetheless.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. You can jump around on top of the water without the aid of magic if your acrobatics skill is high enough. There is also a water-walking spell for the less athletic.
Kazooie can do this in Banjo-Tooie, but only while wearing the Turbo Trainers.
In Golvellius, the Aqua Boots allow Kelesis to walk on water.
In Hatoful Boyfriend, Oko San attends swimming class, only to run across the pool's surface instead of swimming. Oko San actually is divine in his extended ending, as an avatar of the Pudding God.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age has Taopo Swamp, where Felix (and the Party in My Pocket) will sink gradually as he moves around, and eventually go under and wash up back on the shore, but can be buoyed to the surface by streams of bubbles. By "running" precisely from one bubble stream to another, he can navigate across the swamp and find a cave dungeon on the other side (which isn't necessary to advance the plot, but contains minerals for Item Crafting).
The Pokémon Heliolisk is based on a Basilisk lizard, which can run on water (see below)and can learn surf despite not being a water-type.
There are other motivators - Pepe Le Pew spots a "belle femme skonque" on an ocean liner out at sea, and rushes to her. "You know, I suddenly realized that I never learned to swim! Silly me...(glub)" He continues running on the ocean floor.
This naturally had to be executed at some point in the Kim Possible episode "Hive Mind", in which she received red hypersonic speed sneakers.
Aang is able to decrease wind resistance in front of himself to increase his speed to perform feats such as running up vertical walls and across bodies of water, nicknamed "Wind on Waves" in the TCG.
Fire Nation characters also utilize Mongoose Lizards, giant reptilian creatures modeled after Basilisk Lizards that possess the ability to naturally run on water (see Real Life below).
Code Lyoko: Ulrich's Super Sprint. Though not that often; there is that one time Ulrich was training in the Ice Sector, which has lots of not-deadly virtual water. Combined with Doppelgänger Attack in that he uses Triplicate at the time, and all three clones are running in unison. For obvious reasons, does not work on the Digital Sea!
Wakfu: Nox's pet Igôle has the power to run extremely fast over water, thanks to the Xelor magic of his collar.
Water is what scientists call a Newtonian fluid. Non-Newtonian fluids (like, say, water plus lots of starch) exhibit properties more cool for purposes of Real Life water walking, like you can run on their surface, but sink while standing. It is doubtful that Lake Genesareth was full of starch during that storm, if you're curious — but the idea of Jesus having to do this just to stay afloat is, depending on your point of view, sacrilegious and/or pretty funny.
Some extremely powerful custom cars and some snow mobiles can do this trick over short distances; as covered in Top Gear.
The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon.