Friday, April 2, 2010

Dirty Hippie News Network

Pete Thomas

When Southern California surfer Jodie Nelson set out 
Sunday to standup-paddle nearly 40 miles from Santa Catalina 
Island to Dana Point, she hoped it'd inspire her best friend, 
who has been involved in a long and exhausting struggle 
with breast cancer, to keep fighting.
Nelson, 34, whose mother and aunt are cancer survivors, 
also hoped her nine-hour test of endurance would raise money 
for two cancer charities and heighten awareness about a plight 
affecting millions of women.

What Nelson could not have known was that a 30-foot minke whale
would swim alongside her 14-foot board and accompany 
the surfer as she stood and paddled for two of those nine hours, 
thus joining the cause.

"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."

Nelson raised only about $6,000 in advance of the paddle, 
disappoingtingly short of her target of $100,000 for the 
Keep a Breast Foundation and Boarding for Breast Cancer
A few of her celebrity friends let her down, 
she said, but when this story reaches a national audience 
she expects the pool to grow considerably.

"I thought, 'I don't need so-and-so,' " she said of a 
particular celebrity, whom she declined to name. 
"Because I honestly feel like Larry is going 
to help us reach the $100,000 mark with our fundraising effort."

Larry or no Larry, completing a standup paddle over 39.8 miles
of ocean and sharks speaks volumes about Nelson's strength, 
stamina and determination.
Larry took her mind off the task for two magical hours, 
but her mind never strayed from the cause. 
"I can't even begin to compare what I did to what cancer 
patients are going through," she said. "But I wanted to put myself 
out there in a dangerous and scary, overwhelming situation; 
something that was big and just to show people that you can win that 
battle with that big, scary thing called cancer.

"I wanted to draw some kind of parallel and just encourage
 people to keep fighting."

Those wanting to help Jodie with her mission can do so via
 her page on the Keep a Breast Foundation website.

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