Page:Picturesque New Zealand, 1913.djvu/425

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
285
A GREAT MAORI CARNIVAL

canoe races superior to those held on the Waikato River, at Mercer and at Ngaruawahia. The canoe contests of Washington and British Columbia are usually exciting enough for anybody, but the crews are limited to about a dozen men. In the long Maori war canoes from thirty to forty men flash paddles as they are urged forward by the rhythmic cries of their captains. In the Society Islands, canoes and crews are about equally large, but I would hesitate to back the Tahitians or Mooreans in a contest with the hardier Maoris.

As is customary, the Ngaruawahia regatta was opened on this day with a canoe parade. The first aquatic event was a canoe hurdle race for men. There were three hurdles, placed several rods apart, and each consisting of a pole raised about a foot above the river. Over these obstacles the contestants had to drive their wakas, and then paddle for a short distance to the winning stake.

Each crew was limited to two men, and as they paddled they sat in the back of their light canoes, thus raising the long bow above the hurdle. As the nose of the canoes glided over the top of the pole the paddlers rushed forward. Those who had selected the psychological moment and were able to maintain their advantages got safely over. Others less fortunate lost their equilibrium or were not active enough, and slid back or were capsized.

When well timed, and movements were not too quick or too slow, the weight of the crews forced the canoes