Agatha Christie learned to surf in the 1920s

Surfing
Agatha Christie: surfboards can kill, too | Photo: The Christie Archive Trust

Agatha Christie, the famous British crime novelist who created Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, learned to surf in 1924 when riding waves was the privilege of only a few.

A collection of previously unpublished letters and photos has revealed that Christie set off on a year-long round-the-world trip, as part of a trade mission of the British Empire Expedition.

The master of suspenseful plots visited Hawaii, Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa and took photos with her portable camera.

Agatha Christie described her adventures in diaries and letters sent to her mother, Clarissa Margaret Boehmer.

"It was occasionally painful as you took a nosedive down into the sand, but on the whole, it was an easy sport and great fun," the novelist wrote.

When Christie finally took off on her first stand-up ride, she was thrilled and delighted.

"Oh, it was heaven! Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seemed to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour" wrote the novelist.

"All the way in from the far distant raft until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves."

"The Grand Tour," a book published by Harper Collins, unveils some of the original letters, postcards, newspaper cuttings, and memorabilia collected by Agatha on her trip.

Agatha Christie: board riding at Muizenberg, South Africa, in 1922 | Photo: The Christie Archive Trust

The Muizenberg Surf Sessions

Agatha Christie's first contact with water sports took place in February 1922 when she and her first husband, Archibald Christie, "surf bathed with planks" for the first time in Muizenberg, South Africa.

The board used by the novelist at the now famous surf spot is somehow a crossover between a paipo and a water ski - thin, narrow, smooth, and featuring a rounded nose.

These boards were already used in Muizenberg since 1904. They were around five-foot-long and 18 inches wide.

Agatha's first wave riding experience was not an easy one, though.

"In the afternoon, I met Archie at the station, and we went to Muizenberg and surf bathed with planks! Very difficult. We can't do it a bit yet," she wrote on February 7, 1922.

Four days later, she returned to the South African waters.

"This afternoon, Archie and I went to a place beyond Muizenberg called Fish Hoek and bathed."

"It's the only place one can swim around here; either its surf bathing like Muizenberg or else they have large tanks on the beach washed by every tide in which you feel rather like a fish in an aquarium!"

"This was a lovely little place ringed round with mountains, white sand beach, and about six little white bungalows on the mountainside."

"No bathing huts (and no cover!), but a kind young man offered us a hutch where he kept fishing tackle, and we had a delicious bathe. Nevertheless, swimming is a little tame after surfing!"

On February 17, "we bought surfboards with curved ends - much easier and less painful, and I believe one could have great fun with them at Paignton on a rough day."

On February 26, once again, Agatha Christie "surfed splendid waves."

Agatha Christie: ready to hit the surf at Waikiki Beach in 1922 with the famous Fred surfboard | Photo: The Christie Archive Trust

Improving Surf Riding Skills at Waikiki

In August 1922, Christie also got to the water at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. But this time, she rode a real surfboard.

Interestingly, she was able to borrow a long wooden board belonging to a surfer called Fred.

The writer chose it because Fred was the name of her beloved father, Frederick Alvah Miller, who died when she was ten years old.

The British crime fiction writer ended up selling over a billion copies of her 80 novels, short story collections, and plays.

Agatha Christie was a true pioneer, not only in novels but also in the waves. It is fair to say that surfing is not a crime.

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