Love, faith & a really cute whale

Jodie paddling, Larry playing

On March 28, Jodie Nelson set out at dawn to stand-up paddle 38.9 miles from Catalina to Dana Point to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. (The money donated will be split between Boarding for Breast Cancer and Keep a Breast Foundation.

Jodie & her inspiration, Angela Robinson

No woman has ever done this 9-hour paddle before, but for Jodie, that was the point. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, her aunt had ovarian cancer, and one of her best friends is now in a long and arduous fight with breast cancer.  Jodie was hoping to inspire Angela to keep fighting– but instead she found that a 30-foot minke whale would swim alongside her 14-foot board for a full two hours, and inspire the whole world.

Belly up!

Minke whales are not commonly seen in these waters and generally aloof with humans, so when the whale Jodie quickly dubbed “Larry” swam up to her  board, it was mildly frightening. A call to Sea World by her escort boat confirmed there was no danger; and that this was an incredibly unusual encounter.  The whale blew bubbles under her board, flipped over to show its white belly and generally frolicked while Jodie paddled. Which made the grueling journey a bit easier.

Starting out at dawn

“To me it was a total God thing,” Jodie says. “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.”

The intrepid SUP girl -- at the finish!

Jodie is a pro surfer, Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) ambassador, and in great shape, but she’s also had major foot injuries, meaning that the entire time she does stand-up paddling, she is in pain, standing on her damaged foot. So her eagerness to make this 9-hour paddle in support of women fighting breast cancer is that much more courageous, although she doesn’t see it that way.

“I can’t even begin to compare what I did to what cancer patients are going through,” she says. “

A flower heart at the end of her journey.

Although Jodie had only raised $6,000 of her $100,000 goal for her paddle when she set out on Sunday before dawn, her whale escort has turned the tide. She’s now at $39,000 and counting. “I honestly feel like Larry is going to help us reach the $100,000 mark,” Jodie says confidently.

I’m down with that!  You can join me in donating at

(All photos by jenpenjoyan)