e. s. c. handy : surf riding in marquesas, 1922
description of the native culture in the Marquesas Islands is based on
original research during a nine months' residence, supplemented by knowledge
derived from printed literary sources and unpublished manuscripts.
As ethnologist of the Bayard Dominick Expedition to the Marquesas, sent by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Honolulu, I arrived in the Marquesas September 21, 1920, remaining until June 21, 1921.
The other members of the party were Ralph Linton, archaeologist,, and Willowdean Chatterson Handy, volunteer associate.
Swimming (kati, to swim), practically never indulged in by modern adult natives, is described best for us by Langsdorff (18, pp. 169-170):
of these people in swimming is another thing that excited no small astonishment
It is not easy to conceive . . . how men have accustomed themselves' half to live in the water.
They seem to be able to do just as they please there: they will remain nearly in the same place for a long time together, as if they
were standing upright, so that the head and shoulders are above the water, guiding themselves solely by the feet.
They will shell and eat a coconut in the water, or bring a number of things for barter tied together at the end of a stick, which they hold up high above the water, to keep them from being wetted.
I have seen them swim with little children on their shoulders, or throw themselves from steep high rocks into the sea; and they would much rather swim over a creek than go a step around to get to
the other side.
Some of them would swim about the ship for the greatest part of the day, without ever appearing tired.
Mufau . . . has of his own accord run up the main-mast many times together, and thrown himself from it into the sea, to the great
astonishment of the spectators.
It was impossible to see, without equal shuddering and astonishment, how he would spring from such a height, and balance himself in the air for some seconds with his feet drawn up against his body, so as to keep his head up: from the force of the fall, and the great weight of his body, he came with so violent a plunge into the water, that several seconds elapsed before he
appeared again upon its surface."
Surf riding (hoko)
was a sport for men, women, and children, where there were beaches that
made it possible.
Surf riders never stood, erect as in Hawaii.
The surfboard was called papa a'a tai.
Dordillon gives pakoao as a term used for an amusement participated in by two people, one being borne inshore on the crest of a breaker while another person, coming from the shore, passed under him.
8. Dordillon, I. R., Grammaire et dictionaire de la langue des lies Marquises, Paris, 1904.
9. Dordillon, I. R., Manuscript in possession of the Catholic Mission in the Marquesas'.
18. Langsdorff, G. H. von, Voyages and travels in various parts of the world during the years 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, and 1807, London, 1813.
Handy, E. S. Craighill: