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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Native Canoe Races

Native Canoe Races.

The first of these events, which were run at the North Shore, was a contest between Paul Tuhaere's grand war canoe, manned by about 80 rowers, and two whakatiwai, or plain canoes, each having about 20 paddlers. The course was from the Devonport Wharf round a buoy off Calliope Dock and back. They were despatched on very even terms, and gradually increasing their pace as they progressed, a grand spectacle was presented to the thousands who lined the foreshore of about 150 stalwart Maoris, the majority of whom were nude to the waist, swaying in a graceful rythmic motion in time to the wild, exhorting chant of the several fuglemen, while the spray broke frequently over the rapidly-progressing craft, and drenched the lightly-clad paddlers. On the up journey the smaller craft held gallantly to the big whakataua, but at the buoy the latter forged ahead, and, though the rowers redoubled their efforts, she increased her lead, and won a good race by a couple of lengths. The result of the race was hailed with cries and antics of delight by the Maoris ashore, the wahines particularly being vociferous in their expressions of approval.

The whakatiwai race, over the same course, brought out four canoes, which were named the Momoni, Tarai Puruku, Ruahori, and Pumrikana. Each craft contained about 20 paddlers, two being composed of Huntly natives, one of Kaipara, and the other of Rangiriri men. The course was the same as in the previous race, and an exciting contest ensued. Near the finish the Momoni and Tarai Puruku drew out, but the former, whose men paddled with great vigour and in splendid time, distanced their opponents, and won. The Momoni was the canoe which won the whakatiwai event on Thursday.

There was also an event for Rarotongan canoes manned by single rowers. Four boats started, and although one fellow upset his frail craft at the start, and disported himself fur some time in the water, the other three made a creditable race, propelling their canoes with graceful dexterity, Tangaia being first, Kainana second, and Kowtai third.

In the evening, when the tide had gone down considerably, the canoe hurdle races were started, and three craft, manned by a couple of buxom wahines each competed. The receding water had left the hurdle-booms too high above the surface, however, and after many determined and amusing efforts to shoot them over the obstacle, the natives had to abandon the attempt.