pods for primates : a catatogue of surfboards in australia since 1900
home catalogue history references appendix

dibble : hawaiian sports, 1843 
Sheldon Dibble  : History of the Sandwich Islands, 1843.

Extracted from
Dibble, Sheldon: History of the Sandwich Islands.
Press of the Mission  Seminary, Lahainaluna,1843.


Canoe Surfing.
Page 110

Of navigation, they could hardly be said to have any knowledge.
They were in the habit however of sailing frequently from one island to another in the group, and were frequently out of sight of land both on these voyages, and on their fishing excursions.
In some instances, they sailed intentionally out of sight of land, from one extreme point of the group to the other.
There are numerous traditions also, of voyages performed even to and from foreign islands.
When out of sight of land, they sailed by the sun and stars, which in this climate are rarely obscured.
The direction of the wind, was also another guide, the weather undergoing an entire change on an interruption of the trade winds.
Their skill in the management of canoes was perhaps, unexampled, especially in the surf.
Excepting however this practical and common sense sailing they had no knowledge whatever of navigation.

Page 117

Another favorite amusement, both of the chiefs and the people, was that of sliding down hill on a long narrow sled, much like the winter sport of boys in cold countries.
The smooth sward of a suitable declivity as made to answer in some degree, the advantages of ice and snow, for this purpose.
The individual laid himself down at length upon the sled, with his head foremost, having the sled balanced on the very summit of the steep declivity.
He then started ??? ...

Leaping a precipice.
Page 118

... the foot and precipitated himself down the hill with immense velocity, often to the distance, it is said, of more than half a mile.
Thus they went from the top of Diamond hill, far out upon the plain and at other places to a much greater distance.
In this amusement there was very great hazard of life.

Throwing the spear and various other exercises with it, was also a common sport, as well as a practice preparatory to war, and they gained great expertaess and skill in the use of that weapon.

Playing on the surf board, was another kind of amusement in which both chiefs and people exhibited
very great skill and dexterity.
For this amusement a plank of light wood was used eight or ten feet long with its edges suitably rounded and polished.
The more high and terrific the surf, the more delightful the past-time to those who were skilled in it.
The art consisted in so balancing themselves with the use of the board on the crest of a towering billow as to ride in upon it from quite a distance out at sea, even to the beach.
The individual adjusted himself on his board with his head foremost, took the summit of a towering wave as it passed him and so balanced himself, as to have his head project a little before the combing of the breaker and so also as to be carried on by the impetus of the billow.
In this manner, with their heads only in sight amidst the foaming and dashing of the waves, the surf-players rode in with great velocity as near to the beach as might be judged safe, and then returned out again to sea for a second effort.
In this manner they exercised themselves for hours in succession.
There were also various amusements, that were more strictly games of chance.
Another kind of sport, was that of running and leaping from a high precipice into the deep water below. Precipices are shown where this sport was practiced, of perhaps fifty, sixty or even seventy feet in height.

Games of chance.

Page 110 ???

... people were exceedingly addicted to gambling of all sorts, and were not slow in inventing a great variety of modes of carrying on the practice.
It is unnecessary to give the names of their various games, much less lo enter upon a minute description.
They seldom or never played games of chance without a wager, and seldom indeed at any game of skill.
The wager was an accompaninent, and constituted a principal charm, in their down-hill slides, their plays in the surf, their mock fights, their boxing matches, their rolling the stone, and their sports of every kind.
They gambled away their property to the very last article—their clothes, their food, the crops upon their lands, their lands themselves, their wives, their husbands, their daughters and even the very bones of their arms and legs, to be made use of after their death for arrows and fish-hooks.
After the arrival of foreigners at the islands, cards were introduced as a means of licentiousness and gambling.
The Sandwich Islanders were furnished with cards for nearly forty years, before they were presented with any portion of God's word.
And it would probably be found on inquiry in regard to most heathen nations, that cards and rum are disseminated, long in advance of the scriptures of eternal truth!

Dibble, Sheldon: History of the Sandwich Islands.
Press of the Mission  Seminary, Lahainaluna,1843.

Blue Hawaii : Sheldon Dibble of Skaneateles
Kihm Winship  August 2001

"History of bad press has given the explorer an unsavory reputation among Hawaiians
Millennium Special: Cook brought new era."
By Herb Kawainui Kane
Special to the Star-Bulletin

When Adam and Eve learned they were naked and had to leave the Garden, Hawaii did not get the memo. The islanders lived in an earthly paradise until Captain Cook's chance arrival in 1778. It was Cook who alerted the civilized world, which put together a welcoming basket of venereal disease, deforestation, firearms, land ownership, avarice and Calvinism -- this last gift carrying with it restrictive clothing, shame and no more swimming.

Hiram Bingham led the first Calvinist missionaries, who arrived in 1821. After seeing the laughing surfers -- men, women and children -- who paddled out to meet the ship, Bingham wrote home:

    "The appearance of destitution, degradation, and barbarism, among the chattering and almost naked savages, whose heads and feet, and much of their sunburnt skins were bare, was appalling. Some of our number, with gushing tears, turned away from the spectacle. Others, with firmer nerve, continued their gaze, but were ready to exclaim, 'Can these be human beings?!... Can such things be civilized?'"

The task of teaching industry and guilt to millions of carefree natives was a big one, and so Bingham sent for reinforcements. Among the Fourth Company were the newlywed Reverend and Mrs. Sheldon Dibble, who arrived in Honolulu after a voyage of 161 days, on June 7, 1831.

Born in the Village of Skaneateles in 1809, Sheldon Dibble studied at Hamilton College, the Auburn Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, and was ordained in Utica, New York. He married Maria Tomlinson three weeks after his ordination and less than two months after that the Reverend and Mrs. Dibble sailed from New Bedford, Mass., bound for the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) to heed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), to go and make disciples of all nations. And, for God's sake, to get some clothes on them.Sheldon Dibble was very much a product of Skaneateles. In 1833, the Village fathers aptly expressed the moral rigor of the era when they decreed, "No person shall play with balls or any similar game in any of the streets or public grounds. Neither shall any person fly or carry a kite on any street or public square." And of course, it was "forbidden to bathe or swim in any of the waters of the corporation of said Village."

I am not sure what the legal penalty for taking a dip was, but Samuel Edwards, recalling his Village boyhood in Leslie's History of Skaneateles, describes being "brutally flogged in the Columbian office," by his employer, for swimming in the lake on a Sunday afternoon. Such was the faith that Sheldon Dibble took to Hawaii.

I am sure Dibble meant well. He taught at the missionary school, the Hawaiian College, in Lahainaluna. When whaling ships and other vessels were in the harbor of Hilo, Dibble and his wife entertained the sailors, gave them reading-matter and cultivated their spiritual interests. And Dibble committed the islands' oral history to paper, publishing its first written history, "A History of The Sandwich Islands," in 1834, including the map below, engraved and printed by Dibble's students from copper sheeting.

In his history, Dibble accused Cook of accepting deification by the Hawaiians, an act of blasphemy. Dibble accused Cook of having sex with a Kauai princess, Lelemahoalani, who was eight years old at the time. Dibble accused Cook of encouraging the passing of venereal disease to Hawaiians. (Shipboard journals and the flogging list show that Cook actually sought to prevent it.)

Sheldon Dibble died in Hawaii in 1847.

Return to Surfer Bio menu
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2007) : Sheldon Dibble : History of the Sandwich Islands, 1843.