Soul surfer Jodie Nelson set for historic paddle from Avalon to Dana Point

February 28, 2010 | Surfing

Jodie Nelson: 39.8 miles to glory

On Sunday, March 28, 2010, surfer Jodie Nelson will embark upon a historic mission – to become the first woman to paddle the grueling 39.8 miles from Avalon on the island of Catalina to Dana Point, California.

The solo mission, which has only been completed by a handful of men, will be the first attempt by a woman, and is all in an effort to raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness benefiting Keep A Breast and Boarding For Breast Cancer. With a goal of raising $50,000, pledges can be made at

Nelson, co-founder of The SUP Spot not to mention an accomplished surfer, commentator and highly respected ambassador of the sport, will tackle the feat, coined “Paddle With Purpose” on a Stand Up Paddleboard during Ocean Ohana’s annual Catalina Challenge.

The event typically sees teams of two-four members race on Single and Double Outriggers or Surfskis, as well as Stand Up Surfboards and Paddleboards. In addition to the punishing distance, the past few years have also produced challenging conditions for the competitors.

According to Catalina Challenge Organizer Chris O’kieffe: “There have only been three or four men to have ever tackled this feat solo. One of them was Laird Hamilton, the ‘godfather’ of stand up paddling, and the other, Jared Vargas whom paddled the race in 2009, beating relay teams that had three to four men per team. But it’s very uncommon for people to tackle this race solo.”

Nelson is undertaking this deed to raise money for research and awareness of breast cancer, a disease that has affected people close to her. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, her aunt is a cancer survivor and one of her dearest friends is currently battling breast cancer.

“I’m tired of sitting around, feeling like there is nothing I can do,” says Nelson. “I know that paddling almost 40 miles isn’t going to heal my friend or cure cancer, but I know that I can make a stand against this terrible disease that affects so many people. And I am determined to raise money towards research, education, and prevention!”

She continues: “I’m setting out to do something that is, for me, super intimidating, unknown, and something that I have a good chance of failing at. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it! This isn’t about me. People battling cancer go through similar feelings that are magnified to a much grander scale. They are batting a life threatening disease that is intimidating and unknown to them.”

Proceeds from Nelson’s “Paddle With Purpose” will go to leading breast cancer organizations Keep A Breast Foundation and Boarding For Breast Cancer.

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