Everyone, at one point in their lives, has strapped on a pair of water skis and has been pulled, or dragged, around a lake.
For most people, water skiing is a recreational sport or just a way to spend a hot, hazy summer day in the cool waters of Minnesota lakes.
For Bridget Murphy of Pequot Lakes, water skiing is all of that and more: It's a way of life.
Murphy, 19, and a 2001 graduate of Pequot Lakes High School, completed her first year on the Purdue University women's water ski team. She competed in the slalom, trick and jump events for the women's team, which consists of five skiers. The team competes in the Midwest Region with about 30 other teams and encompasses eight to 10 states.
Murphy made some waves at Purdue, establishing herself as a dominant force. She set two Purdue women's records in the slalom and jump categories.
This year's Midwest Regional tournament was the largest collegiate water ski tournament ever conducted with close to 400 males and females participating. Murphy won all three events and cruised to a first-place individual finish. She just missed going to nationals as only the top two teams advance. Her Purdue team finished third.
Murphy was voted Midwest Region Rookie of the Year and was one of five skiers in the region to be named to the Midwest All-Star ski team. At the all-star tournament in Florida at the Isles of Lake Hancock, Murphy placed sixth and missed All-American honors by one place.
"It's just an awesome feeling," Murphy said of her spectacular freshman year. "Everything just fell into place at Purdue. I just figured my first year competing in college I would learn and try to get as much experience as I could. I didn't expect half of what happened. It was all pretty exciting."
Murphy was introduced to the sport at a young age when she began hanging around her dad, Tim, and his friends.
"My dad was an alpine ski jumper and then he got into water skiing with his friends," said Bridget. "Growing up, I hung out a lot with him and his friends and he taught me to ski."
Around age 9, Murphy started her competitive skiing career. At 14, she qualified for her first U.S. National tournament in 1996 at Orlando, Fla.
"At the first nationals, I was exposed to some very good skiers," Bridget said, "the kind that are on ESPN. I wanted to get to that level."
Now that Bridget is home for the summer, Tim takes on the title of coach. A usual day for Bridget is a 6 a.m. wake-up call for a 2-mile run. Tim then takes her to ski a slalom course that is set up behind their house on Loon Lake. Another workout on the water takes place in the afternoon.
Bridget also lifts weights two to three days a week. All told, she works out three to four hours a day.
"Sometimes it feels like a job," she said. "While some of my friends are out on a boat having fun, I'm working out and sticking to a pretty strict skiing schedule. But I wouldn't be doing all of this if I wasn't having fun."
Murphy also credits being able to ski with her older sister, Meg, as a great learning tool.
"It was really fun to ski with Meg," Bridget said. "We learned a lot from each other's mistakes and it was just nice to be skiing with someone else and not just by yourself."
When the competitive juices got flowing, fun sometimes took a back seat. The sisters have faced each other in the same brackets at tournaments.
"We'd make fun of each other," Bridget said. "If Meg ever got mad at me, she'd just push me out of the boat."
With a year of collegiate competition under her belt and the experience that goes along with it, Bridget's future is bright.
"I'd love to be on a pro tour but it would take so much to get to that level," she said. "To be able to compete with those skiers, you'd have to put up some outrageous scores. But it'd really be fun to try."
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