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culin : hawaiian games, 1899

Stewart Culin : Hawaiian Games, 1899.

Extracts from
Culin, Stewart: Hawaiian Games
American Anthropologist
(New Series)
Volume 1, Number 2, April 1899.
Putman, New York, 1899, pages 201, 212 and 213.

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AFThe surfboard illustrated in Culin's article is held by the British Museum.
See #537

Page 201


The new materials of this paper were collected from four Hawaiian sailors, from Honolulu, named Aka (Kamehameha), Daviese Kahimoku, Welakahao, and Hale Paka (Harry Park), and verified by means of Andrews' Hawaiian Dictionary. (1)
These have been supplemented by information from other sources (2) and by a few notes on similar games in other islands, (3) the object ...

1. Honolulu, 1865.
2. Peter Corney, Voyages in the Northern Pacific (1813-1818), Honolulu, 1896.
William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, London, 1853.
Charles Wilkes, U. S. N., Narrative of the U. S. Exploring Expedition during the Years 1833-1842, Philadelphia, 1845.
H. Carrington Bolton, Some Hawaiian Pastimes (Journal of Amerlcan Folk-lore,vol, IV, No. 21).
W. D, Alexander, A Brief History of the Hawaiian People, N. Y., 187I.
Wm. T. Brigham, Preliminary Catalogue of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, I892.

3. Rev, John B. Stair, Old Samoa, or Floatsam and Jetsam from the Pacific Ocean, London, 1897.
Thomas Williams and James Calvert, Fiji and the Fijians, N.Y., 1859.
R. Taylor, Te ika a maui, or New Zea/and and its Inhabitants, London, 1855.
Ernest Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand, London, 1843.
R. H. Codrington, The Melanesians, Studies in their Anthropology and Folk-lore, Oxford, 1891.

In addition the writer desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to that most suggestive paper by Dr E. B. Tylor: "Remarks on the Geographical Distribution of Games," in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute; vol. IX, 1879, and to the chapters on "Toys and Games" in Prof. A. C. Haddon's valuable work, The Study of Man, 1898.

Page 212

23. Hei-hei-na-lu: "SURF-RACING."
- The surf-board, pa-pa-hee-na-lu, is made from the wood of the wi-li-wi-li (Erythrina corallodendrum) or bread-fruit tree.
Ellis (3) describes it as generally five or six feet long, and rather more than a foot wide, sometimes flat, but more frequently slightly convex on both sides.
It is usually made of the wood of the Erythrina, stained quite black and preserved with great care.
After using, it is placed in the sun until perfectly dry, when it is rubbed over with cocoanut oil, frequently wrapped in cloth, and suspended in some part of the dwelling.
Dr Bolton (4) describes the play as follows:

"Plunging through the nearer surf, the natives reached the outer line of breakers, and watching their opportunity they lay flat upon the board (the more expert kneeled), and just as a high billow was about to break over them, pushed landward in front of the combers.
The waves rushing in were apparently always on the point of submerging the rider, but, unless some mishap occurred, they drove him forward with rapidity on to the beach or into shallow water."

3. 8 Vol. IV, P.3!"J9.
4. Journal of American Folk-lore, vol. IV, p. 21.

Page 213

Racing in the surf is called hei-hei-na-lu, from hei-hei, "to race," and na-Iu, "surf."
Two champions will swim out to sea on boards and the one first arriving on shore wins.

Playing in the surf is hee-na-lu, from hee, "to glide."
Andrews gives the names o-lo and o-wi-li for "a very thick surf-board made of wi-li-wi-li," and o-ni-ni as "a kind of surf-board"; also pa-ha as "a name for surf-board," and ki-o-e, the "name of a small surf-board."

FIG. 4-Surf-board of hard, blackened wood; length 71 inches. British Museum.
(From Ethnographic Album of the Pacific Islands, II, 33 No. 1.) - Adjusted position.

According to Brigham (1) -

"Surf-boards were usually made of koa, flat with slightly convex surface, rounded at one end, slightly narrowing towards the stern, where it was cut square.
Sometimes the pa-pa were made of very light wi-li-wi-li and then were narrow, o-lo.
In size they varied from 3 to 18 feet in length and from 8 to 10 inches in breadth, but some of the ancient boards are said to have been 4 fathoms long.
The largest in this museum are so heavy that they require two men to move them.
The surf riders swam out to sea to the ku-la-na or place where the high rollers follow each other in quick succession, and there mounted a high wave and rode on it until near the beach where the water was smoother; the first one arriving at the hu-a won the race.
The riders sometimes raced also to the ku-la-na or starting place.
Standing on the boards as they shot in was by no means uncommon.
Men and women both took part in this delightful pastime which is now almost a lost art."

Wilkes (2) says: "The Kingsmill islanders use a small board in swimming in the surf like that used by the Sandwich islanders."
According to Codrington (3), "in the Banks' islands and Torres islands, and no doubt in other groups, they use the surf board, tapa."

1. Preliminary Catalogue, part II, p. 55.
2. Op. cit., vol V, p. 100.
3. Op. cit., p 34.

Culin, Stewart: Hawaiian Games
American Anthropologist
Volume 1, Number 2, April 1899.
Putman, New York, 1899, pages 201, 212 and 213..

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Geoff Cater (2010-2013) : Stewart Culin : Hawaiian Games, 1899.


H. Carrington Bolton, Some Hawaiian Pastimes (Journal of American Folk-lore,vol, IV, No. 21).