Jodie Nelson: woman meets whale

Professional surfer and Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) ambassador Jodie Nelson became the first woman to paddle 39.8 grueling miles from the island of Catalina to Dana Point yesterday. She finished in 9 hours, one minute and 21 seconds, all in an effort to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and prevention.

Jodie started her journey at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday, March 28, the only person doing a solo paddle as part of the Ohana Ocean Catalina Challenge.

On the top of her paddleboard, she had printed names of loved ones close to her who were affected by breast cancer. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, her aunt is a cancer survivor and one of her dearest friends is currently battling the disease.

"I wanted to go out there and do something big and overwhelming, something I had a good chance of failing at…I see so many people who have battled and who are beating breast cancer, they are tackling something bigger than them. They keep fighting and don't give up. I want to motivate people to keep fighting!”

18 miles into the paddle, Jodie had a close encounter with a 30-foot minke whale, which are fairly rare for the waters but are known to be friendly and docile. She dubbed him Larry and watched as he blew bubbles beneath her, fluked, and showed her his belly. The whale stayed with Jodie for about an hour and a half. "It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life," she said.

According to Ray Hsieh from the Crow’s Nest Boat Center, who was driving Jodie’s support boat, “I’ve been boating and fishing all my life and have never seen anything like what a saw today. It was so strange, I actually called my friends at Sea World to ask them if it was normal, and they said, ‘It's your lucky day! That whale is just playing. Sit back and enjoy the show.’ So I did."

Jodie’s campaign to “Paddle With Purpose” is supported by Emergen-C Pink, which Jodie used during training to help prepare her for the endurance mission.

Jodie’s goal is to raise $1 million, and so far she has reached over $100,000. All funds go toward The Keep A Breast Foundation and Boarding for Breast Cancer. 

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