Who is Florida man? Marathon runner who tried to cross the Atlantic in a hamster wheel ‘banned from sea’

Reza Baluchi was arrested while attempting to paddle across the Atlantic (AP)
Reza Baluchi was arrested while attempting to paddle across the Atlantic (AP)

A man from Florida, colloquially known as Florida man, has been barred from travelling on the ocean by the US Coast Guard for attempting to run to the UK in a giant hamster wheel.

The man in question, Reza Baluchi, was arrested about 70 miles (110km) off Tybee Island, Georgia, on August 26. He initially refused to leave the floating vessel for three days when told to by the Coast Guard.

He is accused of interfering with a boarding, and disobeying a Captain of the Port order.

According to recent court documents, Baluchi has been released on $250,000 (£200,000) bail, but only under certain circumstances.

He is now prohibited from leaving the Southern District of Florida and “may not go to the ocean or board a vessel on the ocean” while his case is pending, according to the agreement.

This isn’t the first time Baluchi has attempted such a feat, having tried something similar three times before — all ending with interceptions from the Coast Guard.

Here’s what we need to know about Reza Baluchi and his unwise attempt.

Who is Florida man?

The 44-year-old marathon runner is now facing federal charges of obstruction of a boarding, and violation of a Captain of the Port order following his attempt.

Baluchi made his floating contraption, shaped like an enormous hamster wheel, with paddles to propel it as the wheel revolves.

Upon first meeting the US Coast Guard at sea, Baluchi refused to get out of his contraption for three days, claiming there was a bomb on board that he threatened to explode. It transpired that the bomb was fake, according to court papers.

Baluchi’s hydropod (US Coast Guard)
Baluchi’s hydropod (US Coast Guard)

Previously, in 2021, Baluchi was arrested for a similar endeavour of trying to ride from Florida to New York after drifting 30 miles south of his embarkation point.

Then again, in 2014, he required rescuing under similar circumstances near St Augustine, and two years later he had to be rescued off the coast of Jupiter, near Palm Beach in Florida.

According to the BBC, Baluchi claims his voyages aim to raise money for a variety of causes, including for the homeless and the Coast Guard.

“My goal is to not only raise money for homeless people, raise money for the Coast Guard, raise money for the police department, raise money for the fire department,” he told WOFL-TV in Orlando in 2021. “They are in public service, they do it for safety, and they help other people.”

The ‘hamster wheel’ (Flagler County Sheriff’s Office)
The ‘hamster wheel’ (Flagler County Sheriff’s Office)

When did he begin his challenge?

It is believed Baluchi started his challenge on August 26, the same day he was found by the US Coast Guard. After initially refusing to step off the vessel for three days, he ultimately did so and was subsequently arrested on September 1, after being brought to a Coast Guard base in Miami.


Wildest Florida man moments

Baluchi is not the only man in his state who is known for wild behaviour. In fact, the term Florida man is used to refer to wild news stories, usually involving danger in some aspect. It has even sparked a Florida man game, where you search your birthday along with the term “Florida man” and see what comes up.

Examples from the past include: