A paddle to remember

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:52 PM

There were times when they wanted to give up.

It was the middle of the night. The weather had turned cold, the waves were crashing, their bodies were ready to shut down.

But a trio of West Michigan paddleboarders persevered, and on Monday morning, reached the sandy shores of Michigan near Muskegon.

Craig Masselink, 23, his brother Trent Masselink, 19, and close friend Ginny Melby, 21, completed the trip from Milwaukee to Muskegon, despite battling some serious demons along the way.

“It was just so exhausting, being out in the middle of the lake paddling,” Craig Masselink said. “The waves were constantly pushing us away from our support boat. The wind would chill you, then the rain came down and made it hard to see. Falling into the water would make you even more cold, more discouraged.

“Probably around 2 a.m. was the most challenging time. It’s the middle of the night, and we were all so tired. None of us had slept. It was so much physical exertion, but none of us wanted to eat anything. That was the hardest time for all of us.”

But the trio dug deep and remembered the reason for their trip.

The had been inspired by a book titled “Love Does” by Bob Goff.

“The book says love isn’t something you say or feel,” Trent Masselink said. “It’s an action, a verb doing something. So this summer, we were like, how can we love? We can paddleboard, so let’s paddleboard across Lake Michigan.”

One of the ministries supported by Bob Goff is Restore International, which is dedicated to ending human rights abuses, especially toward children in Uganda.

When the three paddle boarders were almost ready to call it quits, they found inspiration from the young kids they’re helping to protect.

“We wanted to throw in the towel, but we knew this was more important than the three of us,” Trent said. “So we kept paddling, kept pushing. We didn’t want to let each other down, or the little children of Uganda.”

Trent said the trip started out better than they could have imagined. As they prepared to begin their trip across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee in their support boat, they received a call and someone offered the use of a 40-foot boat, which was much more capable of handling the three and their small support crew than the 24-footer they planned to use.

“So now we have a 40-foot boat, but we have to pay for gas, and two hours before we left, we got another call from someone who said they’d like to sponsor us and give us money for gas,” Trent said. “Then, two minutes before we reached Milwaukee, we got a call from someone who knows someone who knows someone else who owns the Milwaukee Yacht Club, and they wanted to donate a slip for us.”

Things continued to go well early in the trip back across to Muskegon.

The three departed Milwaukee at 9:04 a.m. on Sunday, with gentle seas making the beginning of their trip a pleasant one.

The plan was for Craig, Trent and Ginny to alternate one-hour stints on the stand-up paddleboard. The other two would be in the support boat, along with the boat’s captain and first mate; Craig and Trent’s father, Al Masselink; Ginny’s mom, Cheryl; and uncle Rob Taylor, who was in charge of handling any medical concerns.

“The waves were small when we started off, but after about four hours, they grew to 3-5 feet, and they stayed at that height, with a couple 6-footers, the rest of the trip,” Trent said. “It was difficult. I can’t tell you how many times we fell in. Maybe 50 times. The big waves would come and you didn’t know when they were coming at night, so you couldn’t anticipate them. It made it a very difficult trek.”

The support boat led the way, and as it got dark, they turned on lights that shined back toward the paddleboard.

The trip took such a toll that the Trent, Ginny and Craig switched to half-hour stints, because an hour on the board at a time proved too strenuous.

When they finally reached Muskegon at 8:56 Monday morning, they were greeted by a large crowd of family and friends.

“When we got close enough that we could use our cell phones, we were getting texts from people that said they followed our progress with our SPOT tracker, so they knew we’d be there early,” Trent said.

When they were 200 yards from shore, all three jumped in and climbed on the paddleboard to complete their memorable journey together.

“It was really awesome to all come in together and have everyone cheering for us,” Trent said. “We’re just so grateful. We’re still kind of walking in fog. We set out a very ambitious goal, and we accomplished it and so much more, and it’s all in our savior Jesus Christ. It was more than we could ever have hoped for.

“”Now we want to pass the batton. We’re just three ordinary kids who had an idea, went out and did it.”

Their hope is that others will follow their example and take on a challenge that will benefit others.

The group did most of its fundraising through a Facebook page called Paddleboarding Across Lake Michigan.

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