Meet the lawyer who catches waves on Lake Ontario // Secret Life

Charlotte Conlin
Charlotte Conlin is even willing to endure black eyes and fat lips

By Lisa Coxon

On Tuesday March 7th, 2017


There are some mornings when Charlotte Conlin lies in bed, listening. “I can hear the waves on Lake Ontario,” says the counsel at McMillan LLP. “My husband thinks I’m making it up, but I just know.” For Conlin, a dedicated paddle boarder who lives in the Beaches, it’s a thrilling sound: it means the time is perfect to get out of bed and into her wetsuit.

Charlotte Conlin

Charlotte Conlin, McMillan LLP

Conlin, who is 49, took up paddle boarding three years ago. If you watch her in action, you’ll see her on her board, hunting for a wave. Once she spots one, she makes a few powerful strokes with her paddle. If all goes well, she’ll catch the wave just as it peaks.

“I grew up in the Prairies,” says Conlin. “So water always seemed exotic.” Since taking up the sport, she’s made trips to Georgian Bay and North Carolina. Waves, she’s learned, can be cruel. After her trip to North Carolina last year, Conlin came home with a black eye and a fat lip (she was heading out to sea when a wave caught her board, and it smacked her in the face). “The surfer girl image is all blonde and tanned,” she says. “But you’re covered in bruises and scrapes! It’s as tough as rugby.”

The intensity is a welcome departure from her workday routine. Conlin is a research lawyer, who immerses herself in caselaw to help colleagues craft winning arguments. But she also enjoys being alone on the water, which can feel meditative. “I have many things that I live for,” says Conlin. “Certainly my kids and my job come first, but paddle boarding is next on the list.”

This story is from our Spring 2017 issue.




Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth

Makeup by Mark Jordy Gonzales