CHAPTER XVI. HAWAIIAN SPORTS.
In wrestling nimble, and in running swift,
In shooting steady, and in swimming strong,
Well made to strike, to leap, to throw, to lift,
And all the sports that shepherds are among.
Tuesday, December 26th. - We went ashore at eight o'clock, after an early cup of coffee, and found Mr. Lyman already waiting for us. Two baggage-mules were sent off with the photographic apparatus, and all the materials for breakfast, to the Rainbow Falls, where the children are looking forward with intense glee to boiling their own kettle, poaching eggs, and trying other cooking experiments.
Before setting out for the Falls ourselves, we went to see the national sport of surf-swimming, for their skill in which the Hawaiians are so justly famed.
The natives have many other games of which they are very fond, and which they play with great skill, including spear-throwing, transfixing an object with a dart, kona, an elaborate kind of draughts, and talu, which consists in hiding a small stone under one of five pieces of cloth, placed in front of the players. One hides the stone, and the others have to guess where it is; and it generally happens that, however dexterously the hider may put his arm beneath the cloth, and dodge about from one piece to another, a clever player will be able to tell, by the movement of the muscles of the upper part of his arm, when his fingers relax their hold of the stone. Another game, called parua, is very like the Canadian sport of 'tobogging,' only that it is carried on on the grass instead of on the snow. The performers stand bolt upright on a narrow plank, turned up in front, and steered with a sort of long paddle. They go to the top of a hill or mountain, and rush down the steep, grassy, sunburnt slopes at a tremendous pace, keeping their balance in a wonderful manner. There is also a very popular amusement, called pahe, requiring a specially prepared smooth floor, along which the javelins of the players glide like snakes. On the same floor they also play at another game, called maita, or uru maita. Two sticks, only a few inches apart, are stuck into the ground, and at a distance of thirty or forty yards the players strive to throw a stone between them. The uru which they use for the purpose is a hard circular stone, three or four inches in diameter, and an inch in thickness at the edge, but thicker in the middle.
Mr. Ellis, in his 'Polynesian Researches,' states that 'these stones are finely polished, highly valued, and carefully preserved, being always oiled or wrapped up in native cloth after having been used. The people are, if possible, more fond of this game than of the pahe, and the inhabitants of a district not unfrequently challenge the people of the whole island, or the natives of one island those of all the others, to bring a man who shall try his skill with some favourite player of their own district or island. On such occasions seven or eight thousand people, men and women, with their chiefs and chiefesses, assemble to witness the sport, which, as well as the pahe, is often continued for hours together.'
With bows and arrows they are as clever as all savages, and wonderfully good shots, attempting many wonderful feats. They are swift as deer, when they choose, though somewhat lazy and indolent. All the kings and chiefs have been special adepts in the invigorating pastime of surf-swimming, and the present king's sisters are considered first-rate hands at it. The performers begin by swimming out into the bay, and diving under the huge Pacific rollers, pushing their surf-boards - flat pieces of wood, about four feet long by two wide, pointed at each end - edgewise before them. For the return journey they select a large wave; and then, either sitting, kneeling, or standing on their boards, rush in shorewards with the speed of a racehorse, on the curling crest of the monster, enveloped in foarn and spray, and holding on, as it were, by the milk-white manes of their furious coursers. It looked a most enjoyable amusement, and I should think that, to a powerful swimmer, with plenty of pluck, the feat is not difficult of accomplishment. The natives here are almost amphibious. They played all sorts of tricks in the water, some of the performers being quite tiny boys. Four strong rowers took a whale-boat out into the worst surf, and then, steering her by means of a large oar, brought her safely back to the shore on the top of a huge wave.