There’s a wealth of historical trivia about wood surfboards – the latest being the news that the queen of crime writing, Agatha Christie (author of 80 novels and believed to be the best-selling writer of books of all time) learnt to surf on wood surfboards at Muizenberg beach.
According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, research by Pete Robinson, founder of the Devon-based Museum of British Surfing, suggests Christie and her first husband, Archie, may have been among the first Britons to learn how to surf standing up.
In January 1922, says the report, the couple left their young daughter in the care of Agatha’s mother and sister. They arrived in South Africa in early February and were introduced to surfing at 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 nosedive down into the sand, but on the whole it was an easy sport and great fun.” Seems like nothing’s changed, hey?
Interestingly, this matches with another historical snippet from around this time that I picked up in the book Bay Between the Mountains by Aderne Tredgold. I read it some time ago, but the book is a history of False Bay and from what I remember Tredgold writes that early surfing pioneers at Muizenberg beach actually wrote to Hawaiian royalty in the early 1900’s asking for advice on how to make the best surfboards. Apparently, he claims, they received a reply and used the information they were given to build surfboards that they rode at Muizenberg.