GCU student water skis across Lake Michigan

August 16, 2019 / by / 0 Comment
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Madelyn Hendrikse was determined to do one thing before coming to GCU: ski across Lake Michigan.

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

Many students plan one last hurrah before going off to college for the first time. Madelyn Hendrikse’s was a doozy.

Three years ago, she dreamed up an adventure sure to top a lot of freshmen summer stories during Monday’s arrival at Grand Canyon University.

She told her dad, Terry Hendrikse, that after water skiing on Lake Michigan since not long after she learned to walk, she wanted to ski across the lake from her home in Oostburg, Wis., to Silver Lake State Park in Michigan, 62 miles away.

Dad told her, “Umm, no way.”

He’d been recreating on Lake Michigan all his life. He knew not many even drive a ski boat across it, much less ski across, without stopping.

“Anytime you are in open water for 62 miles, a lot can go wrong,” Terry said.

But Madelyn kept pushing. She had proved her mental toughness by excelling in track and cross country at Oostburg High School, earning trips to state meets in each. And she was soon leaving for college — to a water-challenged desert no less — after being in the lake every day, often skiing for 8 miles at a stretch.

“This was my daughter’s dream,” Terry said of reconsidering this past year. “Who am I to stop her?”

But he insisted on an air-tight plan, a carefully plotted course, refined equipment and a lot of training. Madelyn and lifelong friend Braden Dirkse skied long runs of 20 miles or more to get their legs ready.

Madelyn Hendrikse said her knees and shins ached, but she kept going all the way across Lake Michigan.

“We can do this,” she told Braden when they finally got in the chilly 65-degree water at 5:30 a.m. Aug. 10.

Each father pulled a skier, and off they went.

The weather had to be just right, and it was.

Until it wasn’t.

The water was choppy in the wind while traveling an average of 28 miles per hour pulling the skiiers. “The first 10 miles was insane,” Madelyn said, with the waves at times breaking over the boat’s bow.

The dads radioed each other after 15 miles: “Should we turn back?”

“But she’s just a really tough, mentally, kid,” Terry said of Madelyn. “When she puts her mind to it, nothing can stop her.”

They kept going – over a lake’s depth of more than 510 feet deep, and in the vast middle that Madelyn said “was like a washing machine.” She had to focus to not fall off her two skis, which both her and Braden nearly did 10 times.

She figured this would be a “three” on the toughness scale; it turned into more of an “eight.” Her knees and shins were hurting.

“I did lots of praying,” Madelyn said. “I just kept going and praying.”

And after 2 ½ hours, they saw land. They made it all the way across without stopping.

Madelyn Hendrikse and Braden Dirkse have skied together since they were toddlers.

She and Braden had accomplished what few, if any, had before, said Terry after his search of local archives. Media outlets such as CNN documented the feat.

Madelyn said it was the perfect send-off to college. Set a goal, set it high, and go for it by putting in the hard work. Great training for studying biology with an emphasis in pre-medicine at GCU.

“I can ski Lake Michigan, I can be a doctor. I have the perseverance,” Madelyn said. “There was a lot more to it than skiing. This journey has taught me that I can achieve anything in life that I set my mind toward.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at mike.kilen@gcu.edu or at 602-639-6764.

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Related content:

Sheboygan Press: Teens water ski across Lake Michigan

Journal Sentinel: Yes, you can water ski across Lake Michigan, if you prepare well

MSN.com/CNN: Watch two teens water ski across Lake Michigan


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