Going the distance, once again

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Longtime Siesta Beach lifeguard Robert Martini is set to brave another grueling endeavor for a charitable cause

By Hannah Wallace

At midnight, on June 25, Siesta Beach lifeguard Robert Martini will push off from Bimini in the Bahamas and begin paddling his surf-ski straight out into the darkness. His hopeful destination? Lake Worth, Florida, 80 miles away.
“All you see is the canoe and the stars,” he said as he trained for the journey in the Gulf waters off Siesta Beach. “We’ll probably see Florida within six hours.”

Martini will join some 200 other paddlers on the journey, which benefits Piper’s Angels Foundation for children and families battling cystic fibrosis. As his pledge for participating in the event, Martini has raised more than $2,200 for the organization, plus another $1,000 for Better Life Academy, a private school in Sarasota for special-needs children. Martini’s son, Maverick, has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Sometimes I get complacent,” Martini said. “I just needed something to mentally and physically challenge myself. What gets me motivated is I don’t like to ever hear the phrase, ‘It is what it is.’”
It’s not the first time he’s paired community service with a feat of physical endurance. On Aug. 8, 2021, Martini ran 50 kilometers, from Sarasota’s Trader Joe’s to Venice Beach and back, to raise money for ADA-compliant swings in Sarasota County parks. He livestreamed the event as he ran. It took him six and a half hours.

“People like to donate money for a cause,” he said back then. “And their reward was watching me go through a lot of pain and suffering.”
This time he won’t be suffering alone. Participants in the June 25 event can pilot anything that uses arms for propulsion, from outrigger canoes to prone paddleboards. Martini will use a surf-ski, a lifeguard rescue craft that’s 19 feet long and 19 inches across.
“It’s very unstable. Your core is the key. You have pedals to control the rudder, which helps you with your leg drive, and you also using your back and abdominal muscles,” he said. “A lot of people think it’s your arms, but they’re just a guide.”
Though all of the paddlers will be aided by the Gulf Stream (“Mother Nature’s current,” as Martini called it), Martini’s feat this year will take twice as long as his 2021 run — and that’s if things go well.
“I’m shooting for 12 hours,” he said, though it might take as long as 15. “The other goal is to beat my lifeguard partner George. The third goal is just to finish.”

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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