The use of an oar, or spar, or other material lighter than
the sea-water, has been already recommended to a beginner;
a plan which differs from the other sort in being
perfectly detached from the body while in use.
Such an assistant is certainly not calculated to convey
false impressions of the degree of our own buoyancy; on
the contrary, it serves to impart confidence, and may be
called in request as a rallying point in time of need.
The little dark-skinned natives of the islands of the far
west, to whose swarthy sons one element seems as familiar
as the other, like young turtles, are hardly hatched
before they are seen shuffling down to the beach, and,
staggering under the weight of some light plank or piece
of bamboo, plunging at once into the boiling surf which
throws itself on their shores, or exhausts its efforts
against the barriers of their coral reefs, and commencing
at once the mimicry of the wonderful feats of their
adventurous parents; or else, straddling on his diminutive
surf-board, like some stripling of our own country on his
father's walking-stick, the young savage, in humble
imitation of his sire's voyages from one green island to
another, learns to strike out
boldly for the ship in the offing, where he anticipates
the indulgence of a jump from her bowsprit or her
Once having acquired the art, he reserves the surf-board
for extraordinary occasions.
Even the fair sex among these amphibious islanders carry
the palm for the peculiar grace of all their movements, as
they do in other more civilized parts of the world;
although the child of nature shines most in the element
where the artificial European would rather remain unseen
as she clasps her life-preserver to her bosom, or clings
to her attendant life-buoy.
For the former, whether her purpose be to dart down the
roaring cataract,—like Sappho to spring from the rocks
into the waters beneath,—or to shoot upwards like a
rocket, from her seat on some favourite rock at the bottom
of a crystal stream, where, like a mermaid, she has been
seen some instants before arranging her tresses,—the
self-taught Naiad scorns the use of any thing artificial—
"Their art seemed nature, such
the skill to sweep The wave
of these born playmates of the deep!"
Kynaston, Augustus Frederick: Casualties
with practical suggestions for their prevention and
Saunders, London, 1849.