Last weekend, co-founder of the SUP Spot and highly respected ambassador of stand-up paddling, Jodie Nelson, set out for an intense 39.8 mile paddle from Catalina Island to Dana Point during the Ohana Ocean Catalina Challenge, becoming the first woman ever to complete the marathon.
Nelson joined the competition in an effort to raise $50,000 for breast cancer research and awareness through Keep A Breast Foundation and Boarding For Breast Cancer, however she didn't expect to befriend a 30-foot minke whale on her ride.
The 30-foot minke whale made an unexpected visit during Nelson's marathon paddle, following her for two of the nine hours as she paddled.
GrindTV has the details:
"It was a day that all of us involved will never forget," Nelson said, in reference to Angela Robinson, her best friend, and the rest of a crew aboard an escort boat.
Minke whales are not commonly seen off Southern California, and those spotted by boaters are often elusive. So when a mammal Nelson named Larry joined her endeavor to become the first woman to make this long paddle, she took it as a sign.
"To me it was a total God thing," the San Clemente resident said. "We prayed at 4 that morning that God would reveal his beauty and creation and nature, and allow me to endure this long trek, so for me it's not such a huge surprise that this happened."
Larry did not merely swim close to Nelson. He rolled around repeatedly alongside her and blew bubbles beneath her board. A film crew was on the escort boat and CNN, Fox News and ABC are just some of the networks she says are interested in the story and footage.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society whale researcher, said minke whales can be friendly but added: "This type of quality encounter is highly unusual."
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Nelson started her journey at 6:15 a.a. on Sunday, March 28, and was the only person to do a solo paddle. 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 closest friends is currently battling the disease.
Nelson stated in a press release: "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."
Nelson's overall goal is to raise $250,000 for breast cancer awareness and research. So far she has raised $97,993. To find out how you can help or donate, visit Paddle With Purpose.