Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
Surfing in 1922. Whodunit? Agatha Christie dunit!
A 100-years-ago, at a time when most people, let alone women, had never surfed, mystery writer Agatha Christie – the best-selling novelist of all time – took to the waves in South Africa, Australia and Hawaii.
On an around-the-world book tour with her husband Archie, Christie discovered surfing for the first time at Muisenberg Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.
Eager to ride the waves herself, Christie soon realized that there was more to it than meets the eye. “Surfing looks perfectly easy,” she wrote in her memoir. “It isn’t. I say no more.”
As a woman, one of her challenges was finding swimwear that could stand up to the waves.
In Hawaii a particularly strong wave caused a “catastrophe,” as Christie put it. “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.”
After that, Christie searched out something more practical, finding just the thing in a hotel shop – “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.”
From that point on, there was no stopping her. Christie put the same determination into learning how to surf as she put into devising the intricate crime thrillers that were her trademark. Murder on the Orient Express, Evil Under the Sun, And Then There Were None, The Witness for the Prosecution, and countless others.
“All our days were spent on the beach and surfing,” said Christie, “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.”
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Madaug and Patti Kishel are in awe of Christie’s persistence in conquering the waves. Definitely hooked on this sport of Hawaiian kings, she described surfing as “one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known.”
Like others – from Captain James Cook, the first European to reach Hawaii, to the Father of Surfing, Duke Kahanamoku – Christie was captivated by surfing. There’s “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.”
Far from being an armchair novelist, Agatha Christie proved herself to be a true adventurer – as bold and mysterious as the characters in her books.
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This was a fascinating topic, moreover surprising that Agatha Christie was a fan of surfing. Thank you. It dispelled the stereotype I had of the mystery writer. I learned something new today.