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The Coming of the Maori

Aquatic Games and Pastimes

Aquatic Games and Pastimes

Swimming (kaukau) was a popular pastime with both sexes. Children learned early and were sometimes assisted with gourd floats (poito hue), the gourds being allowed to dry out without puncturing and then enclosed in netting. Hinemoa made her historic swim to Mokoia Island with the aid of gourd floats. Swimming races (kau whakataetae) were popular with the young as impromptu contests. Racing over measured distances was not in vogue. Best (18, p. 20) gives four methods of swimming: kau tahoe (side), kau apuru (breast), kau tawhai (overhand), and kau kiore (back). He also mentions that natives were expert in crossing swift or flooded streams in a slanting course with the current by treading water with the erect body half out of the water. Rivers were also crossed with the aid of a grip pole (tuwhana).

Diving (ruku) was always made feet first, the head plunge not being, indulged in. In the water, diving meant swimming downward and women were very expert from practice in gathering shell fish and crayfish by hand. Diving feet first was usually conducted from a steep river bank page 241over a deep pool and failing some suitable height, a plank or sapling was fixed in a slanting position to a post to project over the water. Though the submergence in the water was termed ruku, the act of jumping out was termed kokiri and hence the pastime was also termed kokiri.

Giant strides (moari, morere) were formed of a tall pole erected near a river bank and with a number of ropes attached to the top. Best (18, p. 24) states that on the east coast, the pole was slanted and the ropes were attached to a rope ring which rested on a shoulder on the top of the pole. The players swung out on the ropes and dropped off into deep water feet first. Where no suitable river with a high bank was present, the pole was set up in an open space and the players swung in circles around the post.

Surf riding (whakaheke ngaru) was conducted on a board termed kopapa by coastal tribes with a suitable shore line. The term kopapa was also applied to small canoes used in surf riding. The pastime was not so well developed as in Hawaii and the surf boards do not seem to have acquired any organized shape.

Canoe racing was popular and created great excitement among the supporters of the different canoes, the support running on family and tribal lines. With large canoes with a double row of paddlers, the space between was so close that perfect time had to be observed in the dipping of the paddles. The fugleman who gave the time with various canoe chants was important and he quickened the time of his chant to quicken the stroke of the paddles. Canoe races were usually included in the programme of European regattas but the lessened use of the canoe has led to their abandonment.