lyman : surf riding at waikiki, 1846
The surfboards, handed
down in the royal family for years, are stored in a thatched house at Waikiki,
which also served as a dressing apartment. Although considered vintage,
the oldest board, said to be ridden by Lyman, was "one used by Kaahumanu."
Assuming this was built during his regency, it was approximately 15 to 20 years old.
In a contemporay
account on18th June 1846, two weeks after Lyman's report, Rev. Walter Colton
also visited Waikiki and he described the young chief's boards as "a smooth
board, of some eight feet in length."
- Colton: Deck and Port (1850), page 352 .
The reported difference
in the length, up to 100%, appears irreconcilable.
One possible explanation maybe that Coulton's 8ft boards were those in regular use, the vintage royal boards observed by Lyman selected as suitable for the conditions or perhaps as a revival or celebration of their culture.
On Lyman's return
to America,"he became a professor of Industrial Mechanics and Physics at
Yale's Sheffield Scientific School, and ... he patented a design for a
machine to demonstrate water waves in 1867."
For Lyman's wave machine, see:
Tues. [June] 2
Rose at 5*4, took a walk & bathed, accompanied by Mr Douglass.
Temp, of air on the road 75°.
In the ravine at the bathing place 72°.
Of the water in the pool 72°.
Of a spring issuing from the side of the rocks a few yards from the bathing place 74°.
Wrote a long letter
to my sister Mary A. to send by a French ship which is to sail for Mazatlan
Paid postage over Mexico 50 cts.
Wed June 3 d .
It is reported by the French Ship which is from Tahiti, that the natives have killed 3 or 400 of
Page 73 Surf Riding at Waikiki
the French & that the French admiral has retaliated, killing men women & children indiscriminately.
of Mr Douglass took a ride with the young Chiefs, they very kindly offering
me a horse.
Rode to Waititi [Waikiki] 3 miles where there is fine bathing in the surf.
The premises there are in the hands of the chiefs.
Near the beach are fine groves of coconut trees, & Koa trees, also several thatched houses one of which is occupied by the Y[oung] Chiefs as a dressing apartment while bathing.
They have an attendant on the grounds.
These youngsters are fond of riding & some of the way they put their horses on a run.
Undressing at the house, I found a bath in the surf on the beach very refreshing.
The Y[oung] Chiefs are all provided with surfboards, which are kept in the house above mentioned.
They are from 12 to 20 feet long, 1ft wide, & in the middle 5 or 6 inches thick, thinning towards the sides & ends so as to form an edge.
Some of these have been handed down in the royal family for years, as this is the royal bathing place.
None of these belonging to Kamehameha 1st [d. 1819] are now left, but one used by Kaahumanu [regent, 1824-1832] & others belonging to other distinguished Chiefs & premiers are daily used by the boys, & on one of them (Kaahumanu's I believe) I had the pleasure of taking a surf ride towards the beach in the native style.
Tho' the motion is swift it is very pleasant & by no means dangerous unless the surf be strong.
On coming from
the beach to the dressing house, calabashes of fresh water were in readiness
to wash off the sea water.
While dressing some of the boys bro't me a couple of fresh coconuts, the water of one of which was very refreshing, the other I carried home to Mr D[amon]'s.
We returned full gallop & reached the village about dark.
a small scattered village 5 miles from Keaau, which is 12 miles from Hilo)
Wed July 8 th 1846.
Went on 4 m & stopped to bathe in the surf.
While sitting on a ridge enjoying the dashing of the water a swell a little larger than usual came & unseated me & sent me
sprawling backwards, doing no other damage however than bruising my head slightly.
Page 98 Oahu and Hawaii (Kilauea and Puna)
About 8 or 9 miles
from our last night's lodging place or about 53 m from Hilo we came to
Kalapana where we are to spend the sabbath.
About a mile before reaching it we passed a long beach of black sand on which the surf broke beautifully.
(This was at Kaima?)
Kalapana is pleasantly situated on the shore, & near a bluff of 20 or 30 ft high which lies to the S. of it & extends along the coast to the next village 1/2 of a mile beyond.
Page 119 A Launching in Surf
After 2 hours & a half of laborious & hot walking I reached at liy 2 Kipahoehoe, a small village in a rough lava region about 9 or 10 miles from Kapua.
Here I found myself too lame to proceed with any comfort by land & after taking a bath in the sea & eating dinner I hired a canoe & two men for a dollar to take me to Kealakeakua about 25 miles distant.
Our canoe was
a nearly new one, finely made, about 20 or 30 ft long & in the widest
part about 12 or 15 inches broad.
It had an outrigger as is always the case with Sandwich Island canoes & one man was stationed on the stick joining this with the canoe to counterbalance the action of the wind on the sail & prevent the canoe 's oversetting.
My other Kau man with the two belonging to the canoe did the paddling, while a light land breeze shoved us thro the water at the rate of 5 knots or so an hour.
Page 120 Hawaii (Kau and Kona)
was nearly smooth & the trip a pleasant one, bating a little feeling of seasickness which however was not sufficiently violent for the entertainment of the fishes (in relation to human gastronomy).
Tues [Dec] 8 th
I went to the beach at 10 AM the men having preceded me some time to get the canoe in readiness.
The canoe however I found high & dry on the sand & the men feeding on fish & poi at the house of the Deputy Governors near by. It is a neat thatched house, & under its piazza, in the cool sea breeze I took a seat till the canoe sh'd be ready.
The wind however was dead ahead & rising so that the whitecaps soon made their appearance on the ocean.
The new deputy Gov r had just been bathing in the surf & was on the rocks a few rods off wiping and drying himself — a boy acting as his attendant carrying him his clothes, napkin &c &c.
Around the Horn to the Sandwich Islands and California, 1845-1850:
Being a Personal Record Kept by Chester S. Lyman.
: Yale University Press, New Haven, 1924.
Books For Libraries Press, Freeport, NY, 1924.