French sea captain Auguste Dehaut-Cilly made round-the world travels between 1826 and 1829; all of the following is from his account of the Islands following his trip from California to Hawai‘i, in 1828.
In the Islands in 1828, Dehaut-Cilly watched men and women surfing at Waikiki.
He notes, “This amusement (surfing), pursued with equal skill by men and women, might be considered analogous to our game of Russian mountain [roller-coaster] If they did not have another that is much more similar.”
“Among the predecessors of modern roller coasters were rides in Russia in the 15th century: sleds constructed of cut lumber and tree trunks sped down man-made ice-covered hills.”
“The rides were more elaborate than simply sledding, reaching speeds of 50 miles (80 km) per hour and earning the nickname ‘flying mountains.’”
“Both children and adults would make the trek up stairs about 70 feet high to an ice-block sled outfitted with a straw seat. Though some constructions were hundreds of feet in length, the trip back down was relatively brief.”
“A ride inaugurated at St. Petersburg in 1784 comprised carriages in grooved tracks that traveled up and down small hills by means of power generated by the height and slope of the initial descent.” (Encyclopedia)
This early form of a roller coaster in Russia was known as “sliding hill”. Most often, the slides had a 50-degree drop and were enhanced by wooden supports. Slowly, the “Russian mountains” became popular among the upper class in Russia. (Vintage News)
Back in the Islands, Dehaut-Cilly noted, “Just as the seal so heavy and apathetic on the rocks or on the beach, is endowed when back in the water with an astonishing suppleness and vivacity, so these men and women, quite lethargic on their mats, are the most skillful and intrepid swimmers.”
“We have often seen them lying belly down on a board six feet long and fifteen inches wide and waiting, more than a mile out from the village of Waikiki, for the most powerful wave …”
“… and then, with feet to the wave and head pointed toward shore, swimming with hands and feet to keep the board always in front of the wave, allow themselves to be propelled in a few minutes and with the speed of an arrow to the beach, where the wave dies out.”
“But if they perform this journey with incredible speed and agility, they must exert even more skill when they wish to go back and repeat the game, for then they must overcome the speed and power of all the succeeding waves, and in doing this they prove whether or not they are good swimmers.”
“To accomplish the return they must plunge through each wave as it unfurls, swim strongly as soon as it has passed, then do the same with the next wave and the next until they have reached the last one.”
“Then they can let themselves be carried once more to the beach.”
“They employ canoes for the same game, but these must be handled with even more dexterity because the smallest paddle stroke done wrong is enough to turn them over.”
“When that happens the only consequence is that they are delivered over to the ridicule of their fellows whose laughter, so easily aroused, is then at its height.”