Deadline Miami

Which way to Bermuda? Coast Guard rescues disoriented man in hydro-bubble

Reza Baluchi designed the “Hydro Pod” hoping it would take him from Miami to Bermuda, from there to Puerto Rico, and then back to Miami -- outling the Bermuda Triangle.
Reza Baluchi designed the “Hydro Pod” hoping it would take him from Miami to Bermuda, from there to Puerto Rico, and then back to Miami -- outling the Bermuda Triangle. YouTube

A popular marathon runner was rescued Saturday morning from his “Hydro Pod” — an inflatable bubble the man was using to get from Miami to Bermuda.

Reza Baluchi was spotted by Coast Guard watchstanders on Wednesday floating inside the bubble 80 miles off the shore of St. Augustine, Florida, looking disoriented and asking for directions to the island cluster roughly 1,000 miles from Miami.

Baluchi was on the first leg of an ambitious journey to outline the Bermuda Triangle — one that would take him from Miami to Bermuda, down to Puerto Rico, and then back to Miami, according to Baluchi’s website.

“A typical day will be, Reza will be sleeping from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., will wake up to start running until his body becomes too hot, he will then jump into the sea to cool himself off with a leash strapped to his leg connected to the bubble,” the site reads. “He will sleep on a hammock that will be inside the bubble.”

The purpose of the bubble voyage? Beluchi’s goal is to raise money for children in need and give inspiration to those that have lost hope.

This cause has taken the athlete around the world, starting from his homeland of Iran. The runner says he fled the country after being tortured by government forces when he was young, and with little more than a bike, went on to cross 55 countries, never looking back.

Baluchi arrived in the U.S. through the Mexican border in 2002, was granted political asylum, and has since been featured on dozens of news outlets for his long trips on foot.

In 2007, Baluchi ran the perimeter of the United States to raise money for the Children’s Hopsital of Denver, and in 2009, ran from Los Angeles to New York City, according to CNN. In the summer of 2010, Baluchi ran 135 miles from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney in California.

“I believe my heart is love and I simply follow my heart where it takes me, in peace around the world,” he writes on his site.

But running on land apparently wasn’t enough for Baluchi — who designed the “Hydro Pod” to run on water. The plastic bubble is encased in a metal structure, with soccer balls tucked in on two of its sides for extra buoyancy. Baluchi propels it forward by running from one side to the other.

The athlete embarked alone aboard the contraption Sept. 30 from Miami. On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard began to follow him, until Thursday, when he was asked to put an end to his journey.

A Coast Guard official reached Baluchi by phone Thursday and offered to get him back to shore. Officials feared he wouldn’t have enough supplies to survive: he was carrying protein bars, bottled water, a GPS and a satellite phone.

Capt. Todd Coggeshall told Baluchi that he hadn’t made progress on his intended track and warned him of deteriorating weather conditions.

“I’ve been two years practicing for this,” Baluchi responded. “I don’t know what I can do ... I will continue, though.”

That is, until Saturday, when Baluchi activated his positioning beacon due to fatigue, Coast Guard officials say. He was transported to shore with no apparent injuries.

Baluchi did not respond to requests for comment, but Run With Reza’s voicemail said Saturday, “Reza will be running around the Bermuda Triangle for the next few months.”

Follow the reporter on Twitter @MelhorL.