Teens water-ski 62 miles across Lake Michigan
Most teens dream of doing something absolutely epic before going off to college. Madelyn Hendrikse and Braden Dirkse made that dream a reality by water-skiing across Lake Michigan.
Hendrikse, 18, and Dirkse, 17, of Oostburg, Wisconsin, have been friends their whole lives, and they wanted to share one more memorable experience before Hendrikse left for her freshman year at Grand Canyon University in Arizona.
Skiing has been part of Hendrikse’s life since she was 3. She spends her days skiing up to 8 miles just for fun, so pushing the extra miles to go one state over was a way to make one of her hobbies have a “unique purpose.” She approached Dirkse about the idea two years ago, and he was down for the challenge.
The plan to take the 62-mile journey didn’t come together overnight. This expedition required significant planning to ensure that the teens made it safely. They closely monitored the weather to pick the best day, which was a top priority. The skiers and both tow boats were fitted with two-way radios and headsets. The boats also had GPS navigation, flares, a marine radio and fully charged cell phones.
About 5 a.m. August 10, with a crew consisting of both teens’ fathers, their younger siblings and a family friend, they set out from Oostburg for Silver Lake State Park, Michigan.
Despite meticulous planning, the pair faced some unexpected challenges. The middle of the lake was “nothing but a washing machine,” Hendrikse said.
“I triple-checked the weather and wind conditions on seven different sources, and Saturday’s forecast was certainly the best,” said Terry Hendrikse, Madelyn’s father. “Yet despite all my research and experience and how beautiful it was near shore, I was surprised with how much chop there still was in the middle of the Lake.”
The choppy waters were new to the teens and gave way to knee, shin and back pain for both skiers. They had to remain focused and actively ski through the choppy conditions.
“I just prayed through the pain, and before I knew it, I was standing on the shore of Michigan, staring at my home across the lake,” Hendrikse said.
After skiing for a little under 2½ hours, the longtime friends had made it to the other side.
“This journey has taught me that I can achieve anything in life that I set my mind towards,” Hendrikse said. “If I can ski across Lake Michigan, I can do anything.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated when the teens set off across the lake.