Afternoon walkers on Dunedin Causeway would have had no indication of the epic journey unfolding in their very presence on Monday.
Just across the street between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. a large group of high school students appearing to be goofing around on Stand-Up Paddle boards were actually waiting for a speck on the horizon to arrive.
The speck, their coach and teacher Dave Sica told them, was a paddler named Justin Riney, founder and CEO of Mother Ocean, a non-profit group dedicated to empowering ocean advocates around the world.
Sica, a history teacher at Countryside High School and Pinellas Surf Organization coach, brought his family, along with 35 of his Pinellas Surf students, to meet Riney after school on Dunedin Causeway. He was on day 56 of of a 365-day paddle and camping journey of Florida's coastline and waterways.
Riney's Expedition Florida 500 is described as a modern-day exploration of Florida’s coastline, waterways, and aquatic ecosystem commemorating the 500-year anniversary of Ponce De Leon's arrival and bringing awareness to environmental stewardship efforts around the state. He is partnered with Quicksilver, Tahoe SUP and Viva Florida 500.
The students were held a quick beach cleanup in his honor.
After a while, Riney's became more of a figure apparent on the horizon, and Sica paddled out to help guide him to their location on shore. When he finally pulled onto the beach aboard his Tahoe Stand-Up Paddle, the students enveloped him.
It had been a rough paddling from Anclote River. The wind had been against him all day. But Riney was all smiles and handshakes.
He spent the night on Honeymoon Island before setting back out on his journey.
Tuesday night he plans to camp on Caladesi Island.
Track Riney's Expedition Florida 500 (XF 500) on Facebook.
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Saturday, March 2:
Ocean Hour Clean-up at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Dr NE, St Petersburg, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 3:
Meet Team Expedition Florida for a group paddle at Davis Islands Seaplane Basin, 864 Severn Ave., Tampa, 4:30 to 8 p.m.
Monday, March 4:
Expedition Florida presentation with Justin Riney, Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 199th St. West, Cortez, FL, 2:30 to 4 p.m.