Agatha Christie, a surfer?

It certainly doesn’t fit our stereotypical image of the woman.

Christie Archives/Findmypast

You couldn’t tell by reading about Hercule Poirot or even Miss Marple. But Agatha Christie, the queen of the mystery, left us a clue about her love of surfing in The Man in the Brown Suit. The protagonist, Anne Beddingfeld, who calls herself “Anna the Adventuress” surfs in Cape Town.

And this is what she has to say about the sport: “Surfing looks perfectly easy. It isn’t. I say no more. I got very angry and fairly hurled my plank from me. Nevertheless, I determined to return on the first possible opportunity and have another go. I would not be beaten. Quite by mistake I then got a good run on my board, and came out delirious with happiness. Surfing is like that. You are either vigorously cursing or else you are idiotically pleased with yourself.”

It appears her love of surfing began shortly after the first world war, when her husband, Archie, helped organize a world tour promoting the British Empire Exhibition, which took them to South Africa. Her first experience was prone surfboard riding on Muizenberg beach.

“We are going to buy light curved boards (that don’t jab you in the middle)”, she wrote to her mother in 1922, “and absolutely master the art.”

From there, her husband’s duties took them to Australia and New Zealand, and eventually Honolulu. It’s here that she learned how to surf standing up. It was also in Hawaii, that she began to dress for her new hobby. She bought soft leather boots for protect her feet from the coral and a new swimsuit. She described it “a wonderful, skimpy emerald green wool bathing suit, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well!”

Image © The Christie Archive Trust

Christie’s visit to Hawaii lasted until October, not because her husband’s position demanded it, but because the couple loved surfing that much. She wrote about it in Agatha Christie: An Autobiography:

“I learned to become expert – or at any rate expert from the European point of view – the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!”

 “It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known,” she continues and goes on to describe the feeling. “Nothing like it. 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.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *