wilson : tahiti surfriding, 1800
In the afternoon,
Pomarre and Iddeah, (Otto's father and mother) paid their first visit to
the ship: besides his usual attendants, a number of others had put themselves
in his train.
When alongside, he refused to come further till he saw the captain, upon whose appearance he ascended the side, and coming on the quarter-deck, wrapped four pieces of cloth round the captain, as bis own present; then taking that off, repeated the like operation in the name of Iddeah.
The bay of Matavai
affords safe anchorage during eight monthslIi the year;but is dangerous
from December to March: the bottom is a blackish sand, from six to eighteen
The channeI between the reef and the Dolphin Rock,on which the water is on]y thirteen feet in the shallowest part, extends mre than half a cable's length, but has twenty-two fathoms of water; yet, in a weak-manned ship, this passage seems preferable to passing to the west-ward of the rock, as it
frequently happens that the wind comes off in squalls from one tree hill in a southern direction, and often falls into a dead calm.
Both of these disadvantages may be avoided by keping the reef close aboard, with ten fathoms water, bringing to where you please; as there is no foul ground to windward of the Dolphin Bank, nor any rocks but what are visible.
The sunken rocks, called Toa, the natives know, and are ready to point out.
The only harbour to the westward is that of Oparre, called Tora-roa, or Long Rock.
They are uniformly excellent swimmers and divers; it was affirmed that one of the natives swam from Otaheite to Eimeoi (15 miles;) he was in consequence esteemed and worshipped as a god; for they declared that as the channel was infested with numerous sharks, and the distance so great, none but a god could pass safely.
They have various
sports and amusements; swimming in the surf appears to afford them singular
At this sport they are very dexterous; and the diversion is reckoned great in proportion as the surf runs highest and breaks with the most violence: they will continue it for hours together, till theyare tired.
Some use a small board, about two feet and a half long, formed with a sharp point, like the fore part
of a canoe; but others depend wholly on their own dexterity.
They swim out beyond the swell of the surf, which they follow as it rises, throwing themselves on the top of the wave, and steering with one leg, ...
... whilst the other is raised out of the water, their breast reposing on the plank, and moving themselves forward with one hand, they are carried with amazing velocity, till the surf is ready to break on the shore, when, in a moment, they steer themselves with so quick a motion as to dart head foremost through the wave, and, rising on the outside, swim back again to the place where the surf begins to swell, diving all the way through the waves, which are running furiously on the shore.
In the course
of this amusement they sometimes strike against each other, when many are
together; those who are coming on not being able to stop their motion, and those who are moving the
contrary way, unable to keep at a sufficient distance, so that they are carried together by the rushing wave, and hurled neck and heels on shore before thay can disembarrass themselves, and get much bruised in their landing.
The women are very dexterous at this sport; and Iddeab, the queen-mother, is considered the most expert in the whole island.
The children take the same diversion in a weaker surf, learning to swim as soon as tbey can walk, and seldom meet with any accident except being dashed on the beach; but hardly is ever is a person drowned.
If a shark comes in amoung them, they surround him, and force him on shore, if they get him into the surf, though they use no instrument for the purpose: and should he escape, they continue their sport without fear.