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wheeeler : board riding at papara, tahiti, 1835 
Daniel Wheeler : Surfboard Riding at Papara, Tahiti, 1835.

Extracts from
Wheeler, Daniel
Memoirs of the Life and Gospel Labours of the Late Daniel Wheeler, a Minister of the Society of Friends.
The Society of Friends, Philadelphia, 1842.

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Daniel Wheeler and his son, Charles, embarked from England in 1833 aboard the Henry Freelingas missionaries of the Society of Friends to the islands of the Pacific.
In 1835, after stopping at Papeete, Tahiti, he extended his missionary work to the Taiarapu penisular where Wheeler visited several villages, often by boat or canoe.
While landing at Papara, he witnessed surfboard riding on the outside reefs, were the prone riders were "hurled with great velocity to considerable distances" on "rolling, curling breakers."

Wheeler appears to be familiar with surfboard riding, and assumes the same for his readers, omitting any description of the board or the paddling-out procedure, common in most early reports.
As a missionary to the Pacific, he surely read Rev. William Ellis' Polynesian Researches, published in 1829, with its detailed account of surfboard riding in Tahiti, and may have seen the 1831 edition with a similar account from Hawai'i and the illustration Sandwich Island Surf-riders.
At the time of his entry Wheeler may have already seen surfboard riding in Tahiti, and in this instance his account was prompted by the quality of the surf and surfers.
Whereas early reports from Hawai'i usually refer to surfing taking place at beaches or over the coral reefs, he is consistent with Eliis (1829) and Moerenhout (1837) in observing that the Tahitians' preference was to surf at an "opening of the reef."

The outer reefs at Paparaa are rated at wannasurf.com for "Pros or kamikaze only," with rides on a good day up to 300 metres.
Whereas the website accredits its "discovery" to Tahitian surfers Poto, Raimana Van Bastoler and Manoa Drollet; it seems that this break was first ridden by their forbears many generations earlier.

in 1891 Henry Adams and artist,  John La Farge, travelled together to Tahiti.
Adams, in a letter dated 23rd March 1891, wrote that, while there, he had neither "seen or heard of .. surf-swimming."
Two weeks later, at Papara, La Farge described girls swimming in the mouth of a stream, while "the boys and one of the men ...  were carried along the shore leaning on their (surf)boards."

1891 John La Farge : Surfriding at Papara, Tahiti.
1891 Henry Adams : Demise of Hawaiian and Tahitian Surfriding.

Page 273

Sixth Month 27th.
Rose early, and after breakfast took leave of the family, and embarked forthwith for Papara.
We reached Mairi Pehe (about firty miles) before two o'clock, P. M. ; Samuel Henry rode on horseback to the Mairi, whilst we pushed on in the boat, intending to meet together on the spot.
This Mairi was, during the days of idolatry, considered the most sacred place upon the island : it is spoken of by Captain James Cook, who visited it when in its full splendor.
At present it appears to be nothing more than a stupendous heap of stones, almost hidden with bushes and trees that have grown over it and the neighborhood of it; where formerly human sacrifices were plentifully offered.
Parting with Samuel Henry, we continued our course to Papara, and passed through the opening of the reef with a strong current, before the sun went down.
At this place the boys were amusing themselves in the surf, by lying at full length on their backs upon boards, and letting the rolling, curling breakers whirl them precipitately down the liquid slope to the gulf below.
Some of the boys best acquainted with this slippery sport, by watching the proper moment to launch forth, were hurled with great velocity to considerable distances, without being dis-

Page 274

lodged from their boards; while the unskilful would be impetuously rolled over by the curling wave, and for a time altogether hidden in the foam below.
We were received with kindness by the ancient missionary, John Davies, at whose house we passed the night. 

Wheeler, Daniel
Memoirs of the Life and Gospel Labours of the Late Daniel Wheeler, a Minister of the Society of Friends.
The Society of Friends, Philadelphia, 1842.

Internet Archive

- viewed 17 November 2012.

Paparaa - Outer Reefs, French Polynesia, Tahiti
Alternative name: chopes rights
Surf Spot Quality
Wave quality: World Class
Experience: Pros or kamikaze only...
Frequency: Rarely break (5day/year)
TypeReef: coral
Direction: Right and left
Bottom: Reef (coral, sharp rocks etc..)
Power: Hollow, Fast, Powerful
Normal length: Normal (50 to 150m)
Good day length: Long (150 to 300 m)
Swell size: Starts working at 2m-2.5m / 6ft-8ft and holds up to 5m / 16 ft and over
The Right:
Towin wave.
Only breaks with a typhoon coming from Samoa (West swell) with a huge swell (20 ft).
Discover and surf by Poto, Raimana Van Bastoler and Manoa Drollet.
It's shallow.
This break may not have a reputation like its big brother Teahupoo but it can get pretty dam knarly so only dare to surf it if you have experience on your side.
The Left:
Usually it's a left with S to SW swells accessible by paddle.
You will be alone, all the kids stay at Paparaa beach-break.
It's a big bowl with tube.
Be careful at the end of the wave.
The good point, if you are taken by the wave, you finish in deep water.

Extracts from
Wheeler, Daniel
A Memoir of Daniel Wheeler,
With an Account of His Gospel Labours in the Islands of the Pacific.
 Association of Friends for the Diffusion of Religious and Useful Knowledge, Philadelphia, 1859.

Internet Archive


The volume now offered is an abridgment of the memoirs of the life and gospel labours of Daniel Wheeler, edited by his son, and published in London in 1842.
In the preface to that edition, it is stated that it was a matter which D. Wheeler had much at heart, to leave on record some narrative
of his life, no doubt believing that in it might be traced many instances of Divine mercy and interposition which could not but be instructive and strengthening to others.
He commenced but did not complete the work; but, from the period at which his autobiography abruptly terminates, no- thing has been allowed a place which could not be stated with entire confidence.

Page 113


The necessary arrangements for the voyage to the South Seas having been completed, Daniel Wheeler embarked on board the "Henry Freeling" a packet of 101 tons register.
This vessel had been purchased and fitted up expressly for the purpose, through the liberality of a number of Friends.

Accompanied by his son Charles, who believed himself called to this step "by that gracious Being who has an undoubted right to dispose of his creatures according to the good pleasure of His will," he sailed from the river Thames the 13th of the Eleventh month, 1833.

Page 174

Sixth month, 20th. George Pritchard came on board in the forenoon, and assisted in arranging a

Page 175

plan for accomplishing our visit to the remaining and most distant districts upon the island of Tahiti.
It was concluded best for us to set off this afternoon towards Tiarei.
As the wind blew fresh, about sunset was considered the proper time to proceed as far as Point Venus, presuming the strength of the wind would lessen as the evening approached.
It was proposed that we should remain at Point Venus until two o'clock in the mornings and then push forward so as to reach Tiarei about day-break, before the trade-wind set in, which is mostly pretty strong, and generally from the quarter to which we were bending our course.
All things being ready, we left the "Henry Freeling" soon after four o'clock, the wind having materially lessened by the fall of some rain, and it still continued to get lighter as we proceeded.
As there was every indication of clear and serene weather long before reaching the first place of in- tended destination, it was suggested by our native boat's crew, that we should not make much stay there, but push forward while the wind and sea
were gentle.
The principal motive for wishing to stop by the way at all, was to lessen the fatigue of these men, by dividing the journey into two parts, so that they might rest between them ; but they were well aware that the whole distance could be performed at once, in calm weather, with much more ease than if divided, and time given for rest, if the wind and sea should rise against them, although but in a moderate degree.
Just before dark, we landed upon the shore of Point Venus, the place from

Page 176

whence the celebrated navigator, Captain James Cook, observed the transit of the planet Venus on the disk of the sun. Opposite this part of the coast of Tahiti, which we had next to traverse, there is no sheltering coral-reef for its protection; so that the remainder of our journey was now exposed to the whole beat of the Pacific Ocean, and  can only be performed when the weather is moderate.

Having with us Samuel Wilson, we were readily
conducted to the habitation of his father, Charles
Wilson, the resident missionary at this station, and
were kindly entertained by the family. As the pas-
sage round Point Venus is very intricate, and the
water particularly shoal, the boat was taken round
to the other side, while we were partaking of some
refreshment. We lost no time in preparing again to
embark. The crew met us with a native torch, made
of the dry branching leaves of the cocoanut tree,
which, with our own lantern, lighted the intricate
narrow path among the bushes, and was particularly
useful at the sea-side, the night being now very
dark. As the night advanced, we were helped by
a gentle land breeze, so that the labour of the oars
was a little diminished by the addition of a sail
being set to catch it. There was an experienced
elderly native employed at the stern-oar of our
whale-boat, whose course seemed to be principally
directed by the white tops of the rolling surf, as it
broke upon the coast near to which he mostly kept.
Off one rocky point of land it became needful to


turn off with a wide sweep towards the offing, to
escape a projecting ridge of rocks, the outermost
extremity of which was defined by the termination
of breakers. By ten o'clock, p. m., it was declared
that we were abreast of Tiarei; but the night was so
dark, that the narrow entrance through the reef to
it could not be distinguished even by the eagle-eyed
Tahitians. The boat's mast was struck, and one of
the natives stationed in the front, with Samuel Wilson,
to look out ; and her head being turned shore- wards,
we edged gently down towards the foaming breakers,
which were bursting on the rocky strand with thun-
dering noise. As the rowing had now altogether
ceased, the boat drifted only at the rate at which the
swell of the sea hove her along a measure highly
prudent until the dangerous pass we had to go
through was clearly ascertained, as was quickly
afterwards sufficiently demonstrated, though at the
moment such tardy proceeding might seem to pro-
tract the term of suspense. Having silently pro-
ceeded for some time in this way, and, from the
increasing roar of the restless waters, evidently draw-
ing nearer and nearer to the margin of the crags, on
a sudden there were symptoms of alarm, which could
not be mistaken, on the part of the boat's crew, who
now perceived that we had missed the only entrance
that affi)rded a passage to the shore ; and, from our
present position, a large lump of rock was in the way
to the mouth of the channel, which the boat could
not possibly escape. Our poor Tahitians immediately
jumped into the sea, and did all they could to save

178 Y I S I T T O

the boat from being dashed to pieces^ but they could
not prevent her from striking. She^ however^ only
struck once, and lay quiet, the wave having so far
receded that she did not float enough to beat; and
the next roller that came in, instead of filling her
with water, carried her completely over this obstruc-
tion. But it was difficult for some time to ascertain
whether the worst was now over or not, for our men
began to howl and shout, the meaning of which we
could not comprehend. It afterwards appeared that
this was done to rouse the sleeping natives on the
shore, who, well understanding this yell, shortly came
running with lighted torches to our assistance, and a
few minutes placed us once more upon terra firma.
As the boat could not get close in, one of these men
very soon had me upon his back, to prevent my get-
ting wet. Samuel Wilson and my son Charles were
landed in the same way. The journey altogether
had been more speedy, and in many respects more
favourable, than is often witnessed, until we came to
the last pinch, when the never-failing arm of Al-
mighty power was again displayed in the needful
time for our relief. As we were strangers to the
language of the people, and could render them no
assistance whatever, and as any attempt to direct
their efforts must only have increased the general
confusion, we therefore sat silent beholders of what
was going forward, committing ourselves to Him who
saw our perilous situation through the darkened
gloom, and did not suffer the briny waters to prevail
against us, but, in love and mercy and compassion,

stretched forth His hand to save. As to myself, I
may say, my heart was fixed, trusting in the Lord,
whose loving-kindness is better than life. He was
with us of a truth, in fulfilment of His gracious
promise, and we were not confounded. I desire to
record this signal favour with humble thankfulness
and reverence, to His praise and to His glory. We
soon reached the mission-house, where William Henry
resides, to whom we were all personally known, and
by whom and his wife we were kindly accommodated
for the night; although, from their secluded situa-
tion, but little in the way of receiving strangers,
and in so abrupt a manner, at an hour so unseason-
able, as they could not have had the least idea of our
coming. Much sleep could not be obtained, yet we
passed the night in quietness, and I felt refreshed at

Page 184



The sun was nigh setting when they reached Taiarapu the missionary station to which they were destined ; but the beauty and various scenery of this part of the island served to enliven the last hour of a long day's exposure to the sun.
The stupendous mountains however steep and rugged were clothed in the richest and fullest manner with every kind of forest and fruit tree which flourish in these tropical climates; where perpetual summer reigns ; their luxuriance only now and then interrupted by falls of water hurrying down the steep declivities, in beautiful cascades, to the vales imderneath ; but the noise of these numerous cataracts is at once overpowered and lost in the roar of the mighty Pacific, whose waves incessantly thunder in endless succession upon  the shores and reefs of Tahiti.

The meeting at this station is thus described:
" At four o'clock, p. m., the people assembled in the meeting-house, where I had full opportunity to clear my mind towards them.
The district on this peninsula being quite distinct from those on the other, it

Page 185

was needful that my certificates should be read, as none of the people could have previously heard them.
They were read, accordingly, with ample explanation, by J. M. Orsmond, before I stood on my feet.

Page 186

The same evening the deacons of the church (two), Tetohi and Puna by name, came to J. M. Orsmond;s house, and, being seated with us, one of them produced a letter, written on behalf of the congregation at Tea-hu-poo, which, being directed to Daniel Wheeler, was opened by myself, and when literally translated by Samuel Wilson, and examined by J. M. Orsmond, and by him approved, was found to contain the address that followeth :

Translated copy, dated at Tea-hu-poo, 20th of June, 1855,

Dear Friends. The ministers with the Brethren
and Sisters in London.
Signed on behalf of the Church,

Page 187

At the breaking up of the meeting in the afternoon, I told J. M. Orsmond that I felt so much love to these people, I thought I should see them again ; when he proposed to meet me at the out-station on the other side of the peninsula next First day but one, where he said he would collect the whole of the people from this place, and from the two other stations.
I could not speak decisively at the moment, though expectation was given that it might probably be so.
Since this conversation I have recollected that, on leaving Tiarei last First day, we were told that the people from an out-station of that district had just arrived, in expectation that we should be again at the meeting in the afternoon.
It seems right for me to go to the out-station on the other side of the peninsula, called Tautira; and I find, on

Page 188

inquiry that the Tiarei out-station can be visited at the same time, but that it will require fine weather and a smooth sea to effect it.

Page 189

On their return, they passed through an opening of the reef, with a strong current, where the boys were amusing themselves in the surf, by lying at full length on their backs upon boards, and letting the rolling, curling breakers whirl them precipitately down the liquid precipice to the gulf below.
Some of the boys best acquainted with this slippery sport, by watching the proper moment to launch forth, were hurled with great velocity to considerable distances, without being dislodged from their slippery board ; while the unskilful would be impetuously rolled over by the curling wave, and for a time hidden in the foam below.

Wheeler, Daniel
A Memoir of Daniel Wheeler, 
With an Account of His Gospel Labours in the Islands of the Pacific.
 Association of Friends for the Diffusion of Religious and Useful Knowledge, Philadelphia, 1859. 

Internet Archive


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Geoff Cater (2012) : Rice and Perkins : The men of Hawaii, 1917.