Chug, chug, vrooooom!

The engine caught and the boat began pulling away from the dock. The chilly morning air already caused a ripple of goosebumps across my exposed skin. I tightened my grip on my towel, using it as a shield from the wind since my bikini provided little protection. The uncontrollable shaking and teeth chattering already plagued me despite the fact that I was not even wet yet.

It was my turn to go first. I dutifully stripped my towel and sunglasses, trading them for a life jacket still damp from the day before. All heat left my core as the last buckle clicked into place.

I took a deep breath – as deep as my jacket would allow – and jumped into the lake.

I gasped as the icy water took my breath away. Entire body convulsing, I finally gained the control to reach out and secure the skis the boat driver had tossed after me. Last came the rope, which splashed down just to my left.

“Ready?” He asked.

All I could do was nod and stare at my white knuckles wondering why I thought it was worth it to suffer such cold. The boat lurched forward, dragging me out of the water. Strong, yet relaxed, my legs found the reclined chair pose and I giggled. The wind, dotted with lake mist, rushed past me. I watched the world fly by – peaceful in my own bubble – until the boat turned. I attempted to follow in the boat’s path, but hit the wake and went sprawling off to the right.

The best time for amateur skiers is in the early morning while the lake is still relatively calm, not yet chopped up by wind or increased boat traffic.

Fillenwarth DockFeet back on the familiar wood dock, I promptly followed in the tradition of making myself a cup of hot chocolate despite it being the last week of July on West Lake, Okoboji, Iowa. I settled my cheek against the warm foam cup and listened to the comforting gulg of the waves lapping under the dock. I watched the last fishing boats float along as the first sailboats and speedboats began to take over. By the afternoon, the pontoons and larger boats full of music and laughter speckled the lake’s surface.

Fillenwarth Beach Resort has become somewhat of a summer home for my family. It offers entertainment and relaxation for the wide range of ages and interests, keeping everyone content. From parks to ping pong, crafts to canoes, and boat rides in between – each person decides the pace of the day.

Boat rides include: history cruises, views of some of the most expensive lakefront properties, sailboat rides, family cruises, and an adult cruise.

Arnold's Park Ferris WheelToward the end of our week-long stay, we wandered down road to the Emporium for t-shirts, trinkets, and the Sugar Shack’s many unique candies. The narrow hallway was bustling with people weaving in and out of each shop’s door. Treasures in hand, we continued on down the road, all the way to Arnold’s Park. A tour of the fun house left me feeling a little warped after walking in sideways rooms and onto the roof. After a few rounds of ski-ball we ended with some of the best ice cream of the summer.

Arnold’s Park also offers a variety of rides and games, even a fortune teller!

For more fun on the water we rented a speedboat for a few hours from one of the local shops. I have never gripped anything as hard as the handles of the tube attached to the back of that boat. Feeling the cushion of air, I braced myself as we crashed into a wave that launched us back into the air again and again. I screamed and laughed all at once until I felt something give and saw the empty space where my sister used to be.

“We have to let go!” I screamed to my cousin. “He doesn’t know Hanna is gone and we have to signal him to circle back and get her!”

My cousin’s eyes widened even further, but I finally manged to get both of us off the tube and into the water where my sister joined us. Needless to say, for at least half of us, it was a trip highlight.

There are a variety of place around the lake to rent boats and jet skis or you can bring your own and tie up at the Fillenwarth dock.

Okoboji SunsetWhile there is so much to do between the swimming, hiking, and sunbathing, it is not so much the place that we fell in love with, but the people. The Fillenwarth family treats the entire resort as their home and each visitor as their personal house guest. From mingling with the guests at events to driving the boats and sharing the lakes stories, they go the extra mile to make us feel at home away from home. That and the fact that many of the resort-hosted events encourage the mingling of guests and fostering of new friendships, leaves us with incredible memories every time we visit.

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