Words by Rebecca Parsons
At 44 years old, Parker Lake is no stranger to the 9-to-5 grind. He grew up in Los Angeles, spent twelve years working overseas in financial services and another five years in China as an investigator. Competitive by nature, Lake would spend his free time at local gyms, competing against the high scores on the rowing machines and snowboarding in the local mountains. But as life took over and kids came into the picture, Lake and his wife decided it was time to move back to the states. They settled on Miami, Florida.
"We moved here for lifestyle purposes," says Lake. "It's a great place to grow up—you can have an outdoor life quite easily here and it's a pleasant place to live. It's like being on vacation."
Lake quickly landed a job in sales at an IT company in the Magic City. He embraced the Miami lifestyle and began paddling on weekends and then occasionally before work, eventually making it a regular habit. All was well until Lake and his wife split in 2016 and he decided to re-evaluate his life.
He sat down and made a Venn diagram of the things he liked and the things he was good at. He concluded that he missed his old security work and was always happiest on the water. He got in touch with iPaddle, a local paddle shop, and was brought on staff the very next day. After that, everything fell into place.
Lake secured a small home on the Little River in El Portal. He added a second job in the form of a security position at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach. Fed up with the craze of Miami traffic, he ditched his car and began paddling to work.
"The stress of commuting has gone away completely," says Lake of his newfound mode of transport. "People drive horribly here. When they show up somewhere they tend to be stressed out. I'm exactly the opposite."
The commute to iPaddle takes Lake 30-40 minutes, door to door. Along the way he often spots manatees, dolphins, bull sharks, hammerheads, pelicans and people cruising by in pontoon boats. If he's lucky, he'll paddle under the drawbridge just as it's going up, halting traffic.
"I'll catch the eye of someone sitting in traffic and they probably think I'm on vacation. Or that I retired early," says Lake. "But no, I'm doing the exact same thing that they are but I don't have to search for parking or anything like that."
Living on the Little River makes paddleboard commuting an easy reality. In addition to work, Lake paddles to local bars and restaurants as well as friends' homes. He avoids the chaos of traffic and the only parking he has to deal with is tying his board up at the location's dock. In a lot of ways, Parker is living the dream life, but everything comes at a cost.
Lake took a major pay cut when he made his career switch. He left a high paying corporate job and replaced it with two lower price point jobs. Jobs he enjoys.
"I would highly recommend people make that venn diagram and identify what they're good at and what they do well," says Lake. "Because once you start to do something well and you like it, money does start showing up."
Parker works hard at both his jobs and since being brought on board has slowly worked his way up, earning pay raises along the way. He recently resigned from his security position and now works full-time at iPaddle; spending his spare time training for events.
Always a competitor, Parker believes racing goes hand-in-hand with fun. He races occasionally and is currently signed up for Crossing for a Cure—a 71-mile paddle from Nassau to Danai Beach. The paddle across the Gulf Stream is expected to take 8-10 hours. Parker is equally excited for both the challenge and the thought of hugging his kids at the finish line.
Life is a series of decisions: some good, some bad. Lake is proof that taking a risk in pursuit of something you truly love can pay off. If you happen to see Lake cruising one of Miami's waterways, you'll likely recognize him by his smile.