Hannah Nelson of Port Angeles crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a paddleboard to raise money for domestic violence services. (Laura Hall)

Hannah Nelson of Port Angeles crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a paddleboard to raise money for domestic violence services. (Laura Hall)

Paddleboarder crosses Strait for a cause

Money raised to go for survivors of domestic violence

PORT ANGELES — A 32-year-old Port Angeles paddleboard champion raced across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a board she calls her rocket ship to raise money for care of domestic violence survivors.

Hannah Nelson, an emergency room nurse at Forks Community Hospital and the mother of a 2-year-old, made the crossing on Saturday, choosing to go a day earlier than she had scheduled because of forecasts of 30-knot winds on the Strait on Sunday.

She paddled 20 miles in five hours, leaving Dungeness Spit at 9:30 a.m. and arriving at Ogden Point in Victoria at 2:30 p.m.

Her average speed on her racing-style board was 4 mph, she said.

The point, Nelson said, was to “shine a light on domestic violence,” something she calls a “silent epidemic,” through raising money for Healthy Families of Clallam County, an organization she said was essential to her survival after she had left her abuser.

“You’re not alone,” she said she wants others to know, “and even when it feels your life is over, it’s actually not.”

When I left an abusive relationship, “I was not doing well, but look at me now.”

Her initiative had raised $4,474 by Sunday for Healthy Families.

Donations will continue to be accepted on her website at standupagainstdv.org through the month of October, which has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“While I was paddling, my friend on the boat was telling me when new donations were made,” said Nelson, who was accompanied by two chase boats carrying seven people, one manned by her uncle, Jack Church of Port Angeles, and the other by a family friend, Joe Daubenberger of Port Townsend.

She said Healthy Families responded immediately when a relative called to tell them of Nelson having left an abusive situation. The organization aided her in legalities — getting her a restraining order and a pro bono lawyer — and offered safe housing.

“I was so lost and confused, I really needed that help,” she said.

“The beginning was super rough, but they held my hand through it,” Nelson said, adding that an advocate even attended court with her “and literally held my hand.”

Domestic violence is not “seen or talked about very often,” Nelson said. “It’s seen as a private issue. It’s a hard topic for people to understand, I think.”

Nelson, who has been paddleboarding for 11 years, decided she could use her skill to raise awareness of domestic violence and funds to help Healthy Families continue its work.

Her board is a 12-foot, 6-inch racing, ocean-going paddleboard.

“It has more of a pointed nose that cuts through the waves,” she said.

“I call it my rocket ship because it’s red.”

She took first place in her division in races in June and August in the Columbia River Gorge, she said.

A Port Townsend High School graduate, Nelson lived in lived in Hawaii, Australia and Alaska before returning to the North Olympic Peninsula to attend nursing school at Peninsula College.

She graduated in 2018 and went on to her first job at “a small, rural, family hospital,” Forks Community Hospital.

On Saturday, the weather on the Strait was mild, although at one point she was paddling through rainfall. It was cold, she said, but she was warmly dressed in wetsuit pants.

She saw porpoises and jellyfish, she said, and unfortunately, piles of floating trash with plastic stuck in it.

The immensity of the Strait struck her.

“It felt like being in the middle of the ocean,” she said. “You can’t tell how fast you’re going. There are no reference points. I could see Victoria’s buildings on the horizon, so I knew which direction I was going.

As she neared shore, “the buildings just got bigger and bigger … toward the end, I could see the red, flashing light at Ogden Point.”

Nelson paddleboards at least two times a week, she said, generally at Lake Crescent and then on the Strait to become accustomed to salt water, and so Saturday’s venture “was like another day of paddling.”

Once she reached her destination, she returned in one of the motor boats, sipping champagne in celebration.

“When I got back in the boat, I said that wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be.”

For more information, see Nelson’s website at standupagainstdv.org.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

Hannah Nelson of Port Angeles stands on her paddleboard, which she calls her “rocket ship” because it’s red. (Laura Hall)

Hannah Nelson of Port Angeles stands on her paddleboard, which she calls her “rocket ship” because it’s red. (Laura Hall)

More in News

Officials brace for sixth wave of COVID-19

Effects could be mitigated with proper precautions

Newspaper carrier sues county over sheriff’s actions

A newspaper carrier confronted by Pierce County… Continue reading

Port Townsend residents Corbin Meyers, 5, and his mother Laura enjoy the Mountain View Pool in Port Townsend on Tuesday morning. The pool reopened to the public on Monday. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Townsend pool reopens under YMCA management

Fours hour a day Monday through Friday

Federal judge rejects bid to stop vaccine mandate

A federal judge in Eastern Washington on Monday denied a… Continue reading

Duane Miles
Search continues for Beaver man missing in park

A search underway in Olympic National Park for a… Continue reading

Jeffery Evalt of Sequim and his dog Rex look for agates and other interesting rocks along the shore of Sequim Bay as wind-driven waves churn behind him on Tuesday. Blustery winds, the remnants of a strong storm system that visited the region on Sunday and Monday, rolled across the bay, pushing water against the shoreline. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Choppy waters

Jeffery Evalt of Sequim and his dog Rex look for agates and… Continue reading

FILE - Kim Wyman, Washington state's Secretary of State, poses for a photo on Sept. 15, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. The Republican secretary of state who challenged former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud in 2020 is the frontrunner for a job heading the Biden administration's effort to protect future elections. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
GOP election chief who rejects fraud claims up for fed job

By Colleen Long, Rachel La Corte and Eric Tucker The Associated Press… Continue reading

Volunteer nurse Karen Easterly-Behrens of Port Ludlow, left, talks with Eliana Rose of Port Townsend at Saturday’s Pfizer booster clinic at Quilcene School. The county Department of Emergency Management worked with dozens of volunteers to organize the clinic. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Long-term care facility resident dies of COVID-19

Woman in her 90s was in vulnerable population, health officer says

Most Read