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Southern California surfer Jodi Nelson had an admirable goal in mind when she decided to standup-paddle nearly 40 miles from Santa Catalina Island to Dana Point. She decided to take on the challenge in the hopes that her nine-hours worth of effort would raise awareness about breast cancer as well as help raise money for two cancer charities.

Nelson has witnessed the agony of breast cancer: her mother and aunt are survivors and her best friend is currently struggling to keep up her own fight against the disease. Thus, the journey was especially personal for her—she knew that she could potentially inspire her friend to keep fighting just as she had done to finish the 9-hour trek across the water. However, what Nelson didn’t know is that she would have a special friend join her on her journey. Alongside Nelson’s 14-foot board swam a 30-foot Minke whale that stayed two of the nine hours.

Minke whales are not common in Southern California—even avid boaters rarely get to see the creatures. But when Nelson spotted the whale she took it as a special sign that her journey was special and important. The whale (whom Nelson named “Larry”) not only swam alongside her, but also rolled around and blew bubbles beneath her board. Sadly, Nelson only made $6,000, but she hopes that Larry’s appearance will inspire more people to give to charities that support cancer research and awareness.

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