In The Cursed Canoe, Professor Molly Barda’s best friend Emma Nakamura is the captain of a paddling crew. With seven women on the crew and only six seats in the canoe, things get a little competitive.

In fact, there’s a word for this kind of infighting:


“We call it paddletics,” Yoshi said. “When paddlers get too competitive within their crew, and turn on each other.”

Yoshi has mellowed a lot since he first moved here with Emma as a freshly minted MBA. At first, he didn’t like living in Mahina. He claimed there were no decent jobs to be had, and would say things like, “I can’t live in a place where no one can tell I’m wearing a two thousand dollar suit.”

Tired of his grumping around the house, Emma got him into canoe paddling, which he embraced with the zeal of a convert. Most of his time is now spent paddling and hanging out at the beach. Today he wore board shorts, a souvenir t-shirt from the previous year’s Labor Day canoe race, and a cap with the logo of a local paddling shop.

One thing that hasn’t changed about Yoshi is his need to be the Expert. His favorite pastime is explaining things to people.

“Paddletics!” Pat exclaimed before Yoshi could expound further. “Molly, isn’t that one of those words you hate? What do the Word Police have to say?”

Pat knows I hate sloppy neologisms: Homophobe. Anything-gate. The worst of the bunch is the suffix –holic, which got snapped off the end of ‘alcoholic’ and now is attached to any word you can think of to indicate addiction or even mere affinity. Normally I enjoy arguing etymology with Pat, but right now, I wasn’t in the mood.

“I’ve heard worse. Paddletics could mean affairs of the paddle, in the same way that politics means affairs of the city.”

–The Cursed Canoe

It’s not just at the office or in the PTA that people vie for position and undermine their colleagues. Paddletics (derived, as you might guess, from “Paddle” and “Politics”) describes all of the infighting and backbiting that comes with a competitive endeavor. Paddlers have been known to talk down teammates, undermining the coach, or even threaten to leave for a competitor club.

So does this mean you should avoid canoe paddling?

No. The blog LiveScience tells us that spending time around the ocean can improve your health and well-being. Some paddlers describe their experience as almost spiritual:

“I’ve learned that sometimes I can’t change things, but I can go with the flow. I’ve learned to harness nature’s energy and use it to my advantage. I’ve learned not to get in Mother Nature’s way. I’ve learned to listen when she speaks. I’ve learned to respect, love and celebrate nature and her ocean.” (source)

And if you’ve been yearning for shapely, muscular arms, you can’t beat the hours of repetitive upper-body work required to push a four-hundred-pound canoe through the waves.

What if you live far from the water? You can get a taste of Hawaiian outrigger paddling from The Cursed Canoe, a Professor Molly mystery.

Originally published on Lynda Dickson’s Books Direct