skinner : nz canoe surfing,
W. H. Skinner : Canoe
Surfing in New Zealand, 1884.
Skinner, W.H.: Surf-riding by
No. 125, March
pages 35 to 37.
Printed for the
Society by Thomas Avery.
This very rare
of canoe surfing in New Zealand in 1884 confirms that surfriding
practised across Polynesia.
1. the importance
of selecting suitable surf riding condtions.
2. the activity
was enjoyed by the whole community, either as participants or
3. the surfriders
4. canoe surfing
was liable to misadventure, with "wipe-outs" a "great
the crowd of onlookers".
closing comment, "Alas! that we were to witness such a scene
emphatically implies that the canoe surfing he observed in 1884
is no longer
in evidence, undoubtedly like many other indigenous practices.
For other reports
of Maori canoes and surfriding, see:
1838-1843 Ensign Best : Norfolk
Island and New Zealand.
1847 George Angas
: New Zealand Canoes.
1921 S. Percy
Smith: Surfriding in
of 1884 the writer was engaged upon the survey of the costal
between the Mokau and Awakiuo rivers - Auckland-Taranaki
A small native
settlement, called Te Klturi, was situated on the north bank
of the Mokau,
adjacent to the ferry route over that river, and here resided
left, about thirty, of that portion of the once numerous body
of the Ngati-Maniapoto
tribe that occupied the fertile strip of costal lands between
the two rivers
mentioned, during the first half of the 19th century, and the
of strongly posted old pas, long deserted, and now only
by their deep fosses and protective works, bears ample
testimony to the
large popluation that once occupied this country, an
occupation that went
back to the Tangata-Whenna, who were settled here and to the
prior to the coming of the"Tainui," with the ancestors of the
of Te Kauri village was Wetere Te-Rerenga, but the elder
brother, Te Rangi
Tuataka Takeri,* was the real chief of the little settlement,
and his final
word was law in all matters of ancient Maori rite and custom.
day in January, 1884, I had come in from my camp to confer
with Te Rangi.
was deserted by all but a few old women, who informed me that
were on the sea beach, a short distance away.
I found the whole population gathered, taking part in, or
encouraging the contending parties, in a most exhilarating
sport, or pastime,
that was proceeding at the mouth of the river (Mokau).
The leader in
this animated scene was Te Rangi, a man at this time about
of age, well set up and preserved.
in was "surf-riding" in canoes, something quite new to me.
canoes, varying in length from eighteen to twenty-five feet,
used, in each of which were two paddlers, the steersman, and
one in the
chosen for the "surf-riding " was ideal for the purpose, and
of these brothers see page 667 (Appendix) of Tregear's
for generations past, the old time Maori had indulged in this
had to be taken at a certain time of the tide - about
flood - to fit in with the locality chosen (or similarly
of the sea, too heavy, or insufficent break, also had to be
This in fact
I am writing about - January, 1884 - the day was beautifully
tide about three-quarter flood, and the sea compartively
with an accompanying light break or rollover the bar, a
quarter to one-third
of a mile seaward.
The bar had
effect of breaking up and reducing the ocean roll to a
for the small canoes to ride on, by the time the wave reached
course which ran along abreast of the sand spit, forming the
of river bank in this locality.
I arrived on
scene just in time to witness Rangi and his partner launch out
for a "run."
Having got his
canoe into the desired position, he awaited a suitable
just keeping a slight forward movement on the craft until the
approached within a few yards of the stern of the canoe, when
gave a short word of command, and the two plunged their
paddles into the
tide, and with a few powerful strokes got the required "way"
on to enable
it to be taken up by the roller as it caught the stern of the
The rest was
left to the action of the wave, and the steersman.
The canoe, if
properly handled, was now rushing through the tide, keeping
a little short of its own length in advance of the wave, with
of water thrown off from either side of the prow, its expert
rigid as one cast in bronze, watching intently the gradual
curling of the
roller (the bowman inactive, with paddle drawn in), until at
he judges the time has come, with a swift twist or turn of his
movement so deft and graceful that it could scarce be detected
watching close at hand) the canoe was turned sharply to the
wave breaking as it passed beneath its keel, and riding
the outter slope of roller, turned seaward to repeat the
misjudged his time for turning by a fraction of time, disaster
followed, and herein lay the skill of the surf-canoer.
a mistake in this respect, but time and again the other less
some of whom were women, misjudged the time when the wave
and running on just a fraction too long, were driven prow
under and swamped,
or caught on the turn by the breaking wave and capsized, in
the occupants of canoe receiving a thorough ducking, to the
of the crowd of onlookers.
was brought ashore, bailed and refitted, and set off
again with another
pair of "surfers" to try their skill, or luck, in this
exciting game.Page 37
impression made on my mind in this surfing incident , was that
of the poise
and skill of Te Rangi Tuataka Takere, the high-born rangitara,
he sat statue like, steering - paddle firmly grasped, his fine
figure and clean cut tattooed features, reproducing, with the
a grand picture of pure Maoridom as it had been for centuries
Alas! that we
were to witness such a scene ever again.
Skinner, W.H.: Surf-riding
125, March 1923,
pages 35 to 37.
Society by Thomas Avery.
Geoff Cater (2010-2016) :
Canoe Surfing in New Zealand,1884.