This past weekend, Jen Skladanek completed her 52nd “dip” in Lake Michigan this year. She started in early June and at first, she didn’t set a goal. She just dipped to dip. But then she decided to keep track and try to make 52 dips – which is her age – before it was too cold.
“As long as my feet aren’t frozen, I’m in for a dip,” says Skladanek.
Although not exactly a “dip a day” for Skladanek, she does it as often as possible and was inspired by a friend in Boston who dipped daily in Cape Cod for 96 consecutive days in 2020. Sklandanek met other Lake Michigan dippers this summer, including a couple who completed their 27th dip in a row.
Skladanek says she enjoys dipping as part of a frequent routine. She bikes from her Riverwest home to one of her favorite spots that range from the Bradford Beach area to public waterfront areas in the northern suburbs.
“It’s my therapy,” says Skladanek. “It helps me clear my head.”
There aren’t any rules for “dipping,” but for Skladanek it consists of walking into the water, diving under, swimming around for a few seconds to a few minutes, and then getting out. It’s a slightly longer version of how people dip into the lake for the annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day. (Skladanek has done the Polar Plunge twice, for the record.)
It doesn’t take Olympics-level abilities to be a lake dipper, just strong swimming skills, common sense and a passion for Lake Michigan – or any other body of water. Skladanek says she learned to swim as a kid – her mother was a swimming instructor – and later from frequent visits to Brookfield’s Wirth Park as a teenager.
“I’ve always been drawn to the water. I know it sounds corny, but it makes me feel connected to the earth,” says Skladanek.
Lake Michigan’s magnetic draw is strong for many Milwaukeeans, whether they sunbathe, sail, swim, dip or just ponder life from the shoreline.
“We are so lucky to have the Lake here,” says Skladanek. “On a sunny, warm day, when I dip into the Lake I feel like the luckiest person alive."
Read more local Lake Michigan love stories here.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.