I grew up boating and fishing in Michigan. I also love water sports, especially water skiing.
Water skiing was a rite of passage in our family. I learned how to slalom-ski sometime in elementary school behind a fiberglass powerboat that my grandfather bought and has been in our family since the mid-1950s. We appropriately nicknamed it “the red boat” because of its color.
From as young as I can remember I was on a boat every summer, cruising Cedar Island Lake in White Lake, Mich., where we lived, or Spider Lake in northern Traverse City, Mich., where some of my family members had cabins.
We would go tubing behind boats, and my dad or uncles would see how fast they could throw us off or hook two or three tubes up behind the boat and see how fast we could knock each other off. Summers were full of boating and fishing (I remember the day I caught more bluegills than any of the boys) and winters were full of snowmobiling the trails and lakes, ice fishing or plowing a rink on the frozen lake to play ice hockey or pretend I was an Olympic figure skater.
No matter the season, I grew up on the water. I never imagined that my career would be in the marine industry. I was still in Michigan finishing my bachelor’s degree in 2008 and looking for a career. Unfortunately, I could not find work that interested me in Michigan. I always thought I would work in the auto industry, but 2008 was a bad year for the economy. People were getting laid off and employers were tightening their belts.
One of the swim instructors I worked with at an athletic club where I was a lifeguard throughout college sent my resume to one of her friends who lived in West Palm Beach, Fla. All she told me was that her friend was involved with a boat show. That sounded like fun to me! Her friend was the executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.
By sheer luck she was looking for an office manager, and she was also originally from Michigan! I flew down for an interview after speaking to her on the phone and was offered the job soon after. I graduated from college, and a week later moved to South Florida with all my belongings in my car. The rest is history!
I fell in love with South Florida and was excited to be working in an industry that I had passion for. There have been many changes in the industry over the past seven years — good and bad. I am now the association’s operations director and have the privilege of chairing the Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade and collecting thousands of toys to benefit Toys for Tots.
The community aspect of this job is probably my favorite. We sponsor so many tournaments, regattas and other marine-related events that I get to attend and where I get to promote the association and the marine industry.
I am proud to work for a successful and growing marine trades association. The Palm Beach International Boat Show continues to grow, our membership continues to grow and the industry in Palm Beach County as a whole has continued to grow since I started this job. I was exposed to boating at a young age and never dreamed about the opportunities I could have working in the marine industry.
It is so important to showcase our industry to young people and get them inspired. I am proud to be a board member of the Florida Fishing Academy, where we do just that: expose underprivileged and at-risk kids to fishing, snorkeling, kayaking and much more. Now that I have my own daughter I can’t wait to expose her to all of the things I got to experience as a child and make some new memories she will hopefully cherish for years to come.
Alyssa Freeman is the operations director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Fla.