Florida authorities say they’ve rescued a man who washed up in a hamster wheel-style watercraft on Saturday after a failed attempt to “run” up the Atlantic Coast for charity.
And it’s not the first time it’s happened.
The unusual “hydro bubble” craft belongs to Reza Baluchi, a 44-year-old Florida man and athlete who built it so he could run across the surface of the water.
The craft is a giant metal drum akin to a hamster ball or wheel, with inflatable components on each side and paddles that are powered by a runner inside.
Baluchi set out from Miami last week en route to New York City, but he hit some “complications” shortly after launch and ultimately came ashore near St. Augustine, Fla., according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials say he was uninjured, but they referred the case to the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that the man and his bubble were complying with all safety regulations.
No charges were immediately announced in the case.
Baluchi vowed to hit the water again in his bizarre contraption, despite several failed attempts to leave the Florida area with it.
“I will show people anything you want to do, do it,” he told Fox 35. “Don’t listen to anyone. Chase your dreams.”
Baluchi has been chasing his dream of treading on water for nearly a decade, though he’s hit a few
bumps waves along the way.
His first water run ended off the coast of St. Augustine in 2014, where he was rescued after a failed attempt to run to Bermuda. The Coast Guard ultimately fined him $144,000 for the rescue, citing its earlier advice that he not make the journey.
Baluchi set out again for Bermuda in 2016 and got as far as Jupiter, Fla., before he again had to be rescued. The Coast Guard warned him at the time that he could face a $40,000 fine or up to seven years in prison for violating their order not to depart.
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The long-distance runner says his latest effort was meant to raise money for various charitable causes, including “homeless people,” the U.S. Coast Guard and police and fire departments. However, he did not indicate the specific charities in an interview with Fox 35.
“They are in public service. They do it for safety and they help other people,” he said.
Baluchi’s friend, Gina Laspina, says he is well-equipped to make his ocean-crossing journey. He also has a GPS device on his craft so that friends, family and supporters can follow his progress at all times.
“He’s a survivalist, he can survive anywhere for days and weeks,” she said. “He’s got food, he’s got water, he’s got everything he needs to keep him safe.”
GPS data on his site shows that he started near Vilano Beach and ultimately came ashore 35 kilometres to the south. That’s also 35 kilometres farther from New York City than when he started.
Nevertheless, Baluchi insists he will keep trying to run across the ocean in his floating hamster wheel.
“I’ll never give up my dream,” he told Fox 35. “They stop me four or five times, but I never give up.”
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