Christie one of country's first 'stand-up' surfers
The doyenne of crime writing, Agatha Christie, has been uncovered as one of the country's first "stand-up" surfers.
The acclaimed author spent her teenage years at Torquay where sea bathing was a common practise in the early 1900s – but research has revealed she took up surfing in the early 1920s, when the sport was in its infancy.
Researcher Pete Robinson, founder of the North Devon-based Museum of British Surfing, said the discovery about the author's pastime had come as a "surprise".
He said: "It certainly shows a new aspect to her life – her passion for the sea and being a sporting young woman.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
"In the early 1920s very few British people were surfing and the only one we know about earlier than her, standing up, was Prince Edward."
After the First World War, Christie's husband Archie was offered a position to help organise a world tour to promote the British Empire Exhibition to be held in London in 1924. The couple left England in January 1922, leaving their newborn daughter in the care of her mother and sister.
They arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, in early February and immediately took to sea bathing at Durban, and were introduced to prone surfboard riding at the popular Muizenberg beach.
Christie wrote at the time: "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 nose dive down into the sand, but on the whole it was an easy sport and great fun."
The party continued its tour through Australia and New Zealand before arriving in Honolulu on August 5, 1922. Agatha and her husband quickly took to riding surfboards standing up at Waikiki, although the larger boards and surf proved a tough test of their new skills.
Mr Robinson said the couple were badly affected by sunburn, cut feet from the coral and the near destruction of Agatha's silk bathing dress by the Waikiki surf.
To protect their feet, they bought soft leather boots and her flimsy costume was replaced by wool swimwear, described by the author as "a wonderful, skimpy emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well!"
Staying in Hawaii until October that year, Agatha wrote in her 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!"
Surfing quickly became popular among Brits abroad, although it was slower to take off in the UK.
Although Christie wrote about surfing in her autobiography, news of her expertise has come as a surprise to the surfing community, which has reacted with "amazement" to the research.
The Museum of British Surfing is to probe whether Christie continued surfing on returning to the UK.