Pictured from left are Jeanne, Matt, Shauna and Ron Weiskotten.
WILLSBORO — On a warm Tuesday, July 9, a brother-and sister duo swam the 8-mile stretch between Willsboro Point, New York and Shelburne Point, Vermont.
Matthew Weiskotten, 26, and Shauna Weiskotten, 24, were recreating a special swim, while their mother, father, and sister followed them in a motorboat.
“About 22 years ago, my dad swam across the lake and so for a long time, I wanted to see if I could do it,” Matt said.
“I remember him [my dad] setting out and just looking across the lake and thinking ‘there’s no way somebody could do that, it just seems impossible,’” Shauna said, “and I guess when I got to about [age] 12 or something it occurred to me that ‘hey maybe I could do that too.’”
Their father, Ron Weiskotten, swam across the lake on July 23, 1991.
“I remember the stretch between the Four Brother [Islands] and Juniper seemed like a long stretch, and then one of the things I did was I went around the north end of Juniper and Matt and Shauna went around the south end,” Ron said.
After coming around the islands, Ron ended up more in the boating lanes so his wife, Jeanne, who was his guide in the motorboat, stayed close to him to let other boats know where he was. At one point he had to swim out of the way of the Ethan Allen.
“It wasn’t a close call, but you know when you see it coming at you it’s interesting,” Ron said.
After making it to Shelburne, Ron remembers how good it felt just to walk up on shore and to know he made his goal. But he didn’t fathom that his children, who were 5 and 3 at the time, would follow suit.
“I never dreamed someday they’d [Matt and Shauna] be doing it like they are and it was wonderful to see them doing it,” Ron said. “They kept up a beautiful pace, just going and going and going. They were waiting for each other and at times they were almost swimming almost next to each other and I think that was definitely a benefit.”
To train for the swim, Matt and Shauna built up their endurance.
Matt works as a lifeguard at his local YMCA so he often swims after work.
“I have spent the last couple months preparing for this swim by working myself up to 100 laps a day for 5 days a week,” he said.
Shauna was on the JV swim team in high school, so she knew she had to mentally as well as physically prepare to swim that length.
“I started training around January through maybe half of March, but then I got really busy with job interviewing,” she said, “so when I got into the water, I was thinking ‘I’ll swim along as far as I can.’”
At just after 1 p.m. on Tuesday, they started out from their grandparent’s summer home in Willsboro; Matt, clad in just swimming trunks, and Shauna, wearing a swim cap, goggles, and a Speedo swimsuit.
Ron drove the boat, while Jeanne watched them and their sister, Leanna, handed them Gatorade to keep them hydrated.
“The lake was beautiful, it was nice and calm the whole way. The thing we watched out for was logs but of course at the speed we were going there wasn’t much danger,” Ron said.
“At first I was thinking it was too warm, but then I kind of realized once we got past Juniper and the lake was colder, which felt nicer, my muscles started cramping more,” Shauna said, “so I was actually grateful that it had been really warm the whole way.”
However, some stormy conditions appeared early into the swim.
“When we got a little ways out, maybe around the [Four Brother] Islands, it started looking more and more stormy toward the New York side and of course the swimmers weren’t aware of that, they were too focused on Vermont,” Jeanne said.
They could hear a little bit of thunder, but once past the Four Brother Islands, they could see the storm start to dissipate. But the wind, which had been a very light Southeast wind, suddenly switched a little more to the south.
“A little bit of waves came up, but then we could see the calm water ahead and they [Matt and Shauna] kept kind of swimming back into the calm water so we stayed out of any major problems,” Jeanne said.
“For me the hardest part was that my muscles were cramping up because they weren’t used to swimming such a long period of time,” Shauna said, “so I made sure I drank plenty of water and Gatorade and really focused on mind over matter and relaxing my muscles.”
“Once I got out to Juniper, I was like ‘there’s no way I’m not going the whole way now,’” she added.
Along with keeping watch out for debris in the path of the boat or swimmers, Ron said that he, his wife, and his daughter were constantly on the lookout for boats.
“We had a couple of jet skies come around and they changed direction quickly,” Ron said, “we want to make sure that if somebody starts coming at us, that the boat is between whatever is coming at us and the swimmers.”
“We did maneuver that way a few times, particularly there was a boat that swung around Shelburne Point and suddenly starting coming at Matt,” he added.
Ron gunned their motorboat and got in between his son and the other watercraft.
“I don’t know which direction they would’ve gone but they ended up veering off,” he said, “that was probably the biggest surprise because they kind of came out of nowhere and it was a speedboat and they were going pretty good.”
The brother and sister made it successfully to Shelburne Point a little after 5 p.m.
Jeanne remembers when Matt got to the other side: he climbed up on the beach just past the point in Shelburne and put his arms up while shouting “Yo Adrian I did it,” a line made popular from the movie Rocky.
“They both kind of whooped as they got to the other side,” Jeanne said.
For the future, both brother and sister aren’t sure if they’ll set goals to swim to other points on the lake, but for now Matt summed up the feeling each of them share: “I think that’s pretty much it, I might swim across again someday, but I wanted to see if I could make it.”