Agatha Christie Was One Of The First British Women To Surf, Then Wipeout, And Have A Wardrobe Malfunction

17/03/2016 2:20 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
Christie Archives/Findmypast

She is still the best-selling novelist of all time -- only outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare. But what many of her fans might not realise is Agatha Christie was also one of the first British women to surf.

Her iconic characters Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple would have been appalled!

The photographs of Agatha braving the waves have been publicly released by ancestry service Findmypast.

An avid adventurer and traveller, Agatha and her first husband Archie went on a 10-month global tour exploring several countries including Australia, South Africa and Hawaii in 1922.

Let it be noted, that these were times when many of Agatha's contemporaries would rather be seen dead than spied wearing a bathing suit, lugging around a massive longboard.

Agatha's first taste of surfing was in Cape Town. She wrote about the attempt in her memoir, 'An Autobiography' saying:

"Surfing looks perfectly easy. It isn't. I say no more."

christie

Agatha Christie the surfer. Picture Christie Archives/Findmypast

But it didn't take long for the crime writer to get the hang of it. She spent several days on the beach at Muizenberg, Cape Town, where she was quite impressed with the quality of the boards.

"The surf boards in South Africa were made of light, thin wood, easy to carry, and one soon got the knack of coming in on the waves. 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," Agatha wrote.

When the couple arrived in Hawaii, however, Agatha realised the combination of heavier surf boards and rougher conditions proved more challenging.

In Honolulu in 1922, surfing was considered 'not for the faint-hearted,' and certainly not a pursuit for ladies but by now Agatha knew what she was doing.

"It was a bad day for surfing -- one of the days when only the experts go in -- but we, who had surfed in South Africa, thought we knew all about it. It is very different in Honolulu.

christie

Archie and Agatha both loved the ocean. Picture Findmypast

"I was not as powerful a swimmer as Archie, so it took me longer to get out to the reef. I had lost sight of him by that time, but I presumed he was shooting into shore in a negligent manner as others were doing. So I arranged myself on my board and waited for a wave.

"The wave came. It was the wrong wave. In next to no time I and my board were flung asunder.

"When I arrived on the surface of the water again, gasping for breath, having swallowed quarts of salt water, I saw tiny board floating about half a mile away from me, going into shore. I myself had a laborious swim after it.

"It was retrieved for me by a young American, who greeted me with the words: 'Say, sister, if I were you I wouldn't come out surfing today. You take a nasty chance if you do. You take this board and get right into shore now'. I followed his advice."

christie

Agatha Christie realised surfing isn’t as easy as it looks. Picture Christie Archives/Findmypast

Clearly, Agatha wrote about her own life in a similarly dramatic way as she wrote her best-sellers. Almost everything was a 'catastrophe'.

"The second time I took the water, a catastrophe occurred. My handsome silk bathing dress, covering me from shoulder to ankle was more or less torn from me by the force of the waves. Almost nude, I made for my beach wrap."

christie

Agatha Christie in Hawaii. Picture Christie Archives/Findmypast

Following the horrifying 'catastrophe' of almost being stripped naked by the force of the waves, Agatha invested in something that was practical, yet fashionable.

"I had immediately to visit the hotel shop and provide myself with a wonderful, skimpy, emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well. Archie thought I did too.

"All our days were spent on the beach and surfing, and little by little we learned to become expert, or at any rate expert from the European point of view. We cut our feet to ribbons on the coral until we bought ourselves soft leather boots to lace round our ankles.

"I can't say that we enjoyed our first four or five days of surfing -- it was far too painful -- but there were, every now and then, moments of utter joy.

"Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seems to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour; 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.

"It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known."

By the time of her death in 1976 at the age of 85, she had written 82 novels, 19 plays, 150 short stories and four non-fiction books. By all accounts she lived a happy and colourful life and, according to her auto biography, she never let go of her love of the ocean.

christie

Archie (left) with Agatha and other members of the British Empire Tour. Picture Findmypast

More On This Topic

Advertisement
Advertisement