Endurance Paddler Jodie Nelson Digs Deep for a Good Cause
By Elizabeth Glazner

Jodie Nelson with "Larry the Whale." Photo courtesy of Paddle With Purpose

It’s not likely that Jodie Nelson will be traveling with a whale when she paddles her SUP from San Clemente to Baja. But still, the former pro surfer wouldn’t mind another close encounter with a friendly Cephalopod.

Nelson, 35, received publicity two years ago during her solo SUP trek from Santa Catalina to Dana Point when a rare minke whale showed up and hung around for two of the 9 hours it took her to complete the 40-mile crossing. The first female to make the trip, the story of the girl and the whale was all over the Internet before being picked up by CNN, NBC Nightly News, FOX and MSNBC. Nelson even garnered a spot on the Ellen DeGeneres Show wearing a Larry the Whale shirt–the name she gave the curious creature. She made the paddle to show support for a friend who was battling breast cancer.

As special and amusing–even spiritual–Larry’s presence proved to be, Nelson admits the mammal’s girth and unpredictability was a little scary for her.

At press time, Nelson, 35, was set to embark on a 70-mile ocean trek from San Mateo Creek to Tijuana, this time to bring awareness about the health of our watershed ecosystems. It should take her five days.

With regard to this adventure, “It’s a long stretch,” she said via telephone. “Trestles to Oceanside is notoriously sharkey. And La Jolla sketches me out a little because of the deep canyon.”

Nelson, a former World Qualifying Series pro surfer, is now a television host and active SUP ambassador. She is also the founder of Paddle With Purpose, a non-profit that “is all about empowering other non-profits and everyday people to raise awareness for worthy causes through the sport of stand-up paddleboarding,” she said in a press release.

Paddle with Purpose is partnering with Below the Surface, a San Diego-based non-profit, on the First Annual Trestles to TJ Paddle, which includes 15 paddlers from the Mission Continues, National Geographic Young Explorers, the Eco Warrior Project, SUP Core, Expedition 1000, Red I Nation, Namaste SUP, The SUP Spot, and endurance athlete Ryan Levinson. Paddlers will put in and take out at the mouth of seven rivers, including San Mateo Creek, Batiquitos Lagoon, San Dieguito River Mouth, La Jolla Cove Marine Protected Area, San Diego River, the Silver Strand side of the Sweetwater River, and the Tijuana River. They’ll be shadowed by chase boats. Nelson will be using a Surftech Bark Dominator board and a Quickblade paddle.

The journey will be grueling, Nelson admits. But to her, both surfing and SUP are about pushing personal limits and not about winning.

“I like mental and physical challenges,” she said. “And working on a good cause.” Trestles to TJ is meant to draw attention to the impact of riverine water pollution on the coastline. It is also the official launch of the Riverview Mobile App, part of Below the Surface’s Riverview Project, or “Google’s Streetview for Rivers.” The project provides a permanent photographic record of current conditions of America’s waterways.

For more information on the Riverview Project go to BelowtheSurface.org. For more about Paddle with Purpose, go to PaddleWithPurpose.com.