Jodie Nelson was hoping to inspire her best friend, who has been battling breast cancer, to keep on fighting. On Sunday, the California surfer set out to standup-paddle almost 40 miles from Santa Catalina Island to Dana Point.
Nelson, 34, also hoped her nine-hour effort would also help raise money for two cancer charities and raise awareness. Her mother and aunt are both breast cancer survivors.
She couldn’t have asked for a better escort…a 30-foot minke whale that swam alongside her 14-foot board and accompanied her as she paddled for two hours of her long journey.
“It was a day that all of us involved will never forget,” Nelson said, referring to her best friend, Angela Robinson, as well as the rest of her crew aboard an escort boat.
Minke whales are rare in Southern California, so Nelson took it as a sign.
“To me it was a total God thing,” the she 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.”
During the trip, “Larry” the whale rolled around repeatedly and blew bubbles underneath Nelson’s surf board. A film crew was on board the escort boat and CNN, Fox News and ABC are just a few of the networks she says are interested in the unbelievable story.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society whale researcher, said minke whales are often friendly but added, “This type of quality encounter is highly unusual.”
Nelson only managed to raise about $6,000 before the paddle, which fell far short of her target goal of $100,000 for the Keep a Breast Foundation and Boarding for Breast Cancer. Still, she is encouraged and expects that total to grow once this story reaches a national audience.
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