Surfing may be a pastime synonymous with swaying palms and jangling Californian guitar music, but what’s little known is the role that Britain’s own surfing pioneers have played in the development of the sport.

The Museum of British Surfing recently opened in Braunton, North Devon, with exhibitions spanning Captain Cook’s encounters with Polynesian surfers in the 18th Century  –  the first time a European witnessed the sport  –  through to a small flotilla of historic surfboards.

Britain’s surfing pioneers were very different from the tousled-haired stereotypes of today. Agatha Christie was among the first, taking to the shores around South Africa and Hawaii in the 1920s. She recalled that there was: “Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seemed to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour… until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves.”

British surfing has even had Royal approval – Edward Windsor, the future King Edward VIII, carried the distinction of being the first surfer from Britain to be photographed on his first trip to Hawaii in April 1920.

This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.