Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Elaine Viets - Fall Off Paddleboarding

“Board Stiff,” my new Dead-End Job mystery, is the ultimate beach book. In fact, reviewer Oline Cogdill calls it a “vicarious Florida vacation.”

But researching this novel was no day at the beach.

In my twelfth Dead-End Job mystery, newlywed private eyes Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagement have been hired by Sunny Jim’s Stand-up Paddleboard Rental to find out who’s sabotaging his business.

The smaller recreational companies – Jet Ski rentals, ocean kayaking, paddleboarding, and parasailing – are in hot competition for tourist dollars. According to the South Florida papers, some of them will stoop to sabotage, especially before spring break. The annual migration of college students to the beaches results in a burst of business for locals.

Paddleboarding looked like an incredibly cool beach sport. I watched people get on a board a little larger than a surf board and row with a long paddle. They made it look easy.

That’s why I took paddleboarding lessons for “Board Stiff.”

In the paddleboard ads, women always wear bikinis. Not this woman. I wore a T-shirt down to my knees. If I could have found my grandmother’s bloomers, I would have worn them.

My first lesson was on the Middle River, a calm, condo-lined waterway that runs through Fort Lauderdale. The water didn’t seem quite so calm when I was out there on my paddleboard. The instructor, Mario, started in about three feet of water. He stood up on his paddleboard as if he’d been born in the water.

I was a little – okay, a lot – shakier, but I actually managed to stand up from a kneeling position, holding the paddle (and my breath). This was probably the greatest athletic feat of my life.

I wobbled around in the water, and then I started getting the hang of it. I paddled over to a tree filled with nesting water birds. Because the paddleboard was so quiet, I could get right up to them.

Meanwhile, Mario was watching the bikinied chicks at a nearby condo.

“You can get really close to the wild life on a paddleboard,” I told him.

“Sure can,” he said, his eyes bulging.

I stayed up on my paddleboard for 45 minutes before I fell off when a JetSki roared by. “You fall very gracefully,” Mario said.

That fall led to a bigger downfall a week later. I took another paddleboard lesson, this time on the Intracoastal Waterway, in a section where the big yachts cruise. I got up on the board, and fell off.

I got back on and fell off.

I got up the third time, fell off, got back up and was stuck – rear end in the air, “mooning” the yachts in my red T-shirt.

“Relax!” my instructor said.

I don’t know about you, but the word “relax” makes me go as rigid as that paddleboard.

In my case, pride really did go before a fall.


“Board Stiff,” Elaine Viets’ new hardcover mystery, is set in the cutthroat world of Florida tourism. The New York Times Review of Books praises her “quick-witted mysteries.” Elaine’s bestselling Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Elaine’s second series features mystery shopper Josie Marcus. Elaine won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards. 

Check out the first chapters of her mysteries at


Mary Preston said...

I doubt I would fall gracefully, but what fun research.

Lory Lee said...

Mystery and Beach, two things I love in this world. :)

Pat Cochran said...

I don't swim, so I don't see myself trying out
the paddleboards! I would enjoy reading your
mystery about this "dead-end job."

Pat C.