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Sarasota Thursday, May. 27, 2010 7 years ago

Residents strong-arm program fundraiser

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

There are some people who enjoy powering through the finish line of a marathon. There are others — two Sarasota residents in particular — who are just crazy enough to surpass this distance by 10 miles and use only their arms to paddle through the Gulf of Mexico.

This Saturday, Robert Martini and Abe Uccello will paddle the 36-mile stretch from Longboat Key to Englewood Beach in Charlotte County to raise money for the Sarasota County Junior Lifeguard Program.
Kneeling on their surfboards, they will propel their arms forward through the water.

“People won’t donate to something unless you achieve something,” said Martini, a lifeguard for the Sarasota County Beach Patrol. “Paddling 36 miles using your arms is insane. Nobody does that.”

The not-for-profit program teaches kids from ages 9 to 17 about rip currents, beach safety and to have respect for nature and the water. Because the program had little funding last year, surfboards had to be borrowed, and only 17 kids were able to attend.

“Ecology is the economy, especially for our coast of communities,” said Uccello, a Realtor with Waterside Realty on Siesta Key. “If people don’t realize how critical our youth are to respecting that ecology and developing it, then our economy is doomed.”

So far, the two have raised about $2,500 through donations from beachgoers and local businesses and purchased nine rescue boards and about 15 can buoys; 54 kids have signed up for the program.

“Our own rescue boards are 11 feet long and 22 inches wide — a young kid can’t hold that,” Martini said.
“We have to make sure we have the proper equipment — tents, water, food — and we wouldn’t have had any of that without donations.”

Both guys are pumped up for the paddling adventure, which will begin at 6 a.m. Saturday, May 29, from the Sarasota County line on Longboat Key. Because it will be dark, they’ll travel with glow sticks. The boards get up to a speed of about 6 miles per hour.

“This will be a true water man’s ocean endurance challenge,” said Uccello, who got into paddling three years ago. “There will be more tidal issues, weather and sea life. The weather will be our biggest challenge.”

Martini says the secret to finishing is to keep going once you’ve hit “the wall.”

“You have to just keep paddling,” he said.

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]

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