Missing surfers rescued after days stranded at sea on their boards

Four Australian tourists were found safe on their surfboards alongside two Indonesians, days after they vanished at sea when bad weather hit their boat, officials said Tuesday.

One member of the crew is still missing. But the rescue of the four surfers and two other crew members, who were stranded in a remote part of the ocean off Indonesia’s Aceh province for 38 hours, sparked joyous scenes captured in a dramatic video.

“They were all just bobbing around on their surfboards,” Peter Foote said at a news conference Tuesday.

Among those rescued was his son, Elliot Foote, who he said had made the trip to celebrate his 30th birthday with friends. He read out a message from his son after the rescue: “Hey Dad, Elliot Here. I’m alive, safe now. Love you, chat later.” 

Rescued Australian surfers Will Teagle, Elliot Foote, Stephanie Weisse and Jordan Short.
Rescued Australian surfers Will Teagle, Elliot Foote, Stephanie Weisse and Jordan Short. Family handout

A group of 17 people, including crew members, took off Sunday in two boats from the North Nias, which is around 93 miles from Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, according to Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency. 

The boats experienced bad weather, with very heavy rain, officials said.

One of the boats took shelter on Sarang Alu island, but the other, with Foote and six other people onboard, carried on with its journey. It was a 30-foot wooden vessel, the agency said.

The group was heading to Pinang Island for a vacation, the Indonesian rescuers said. The island is known for its pristine beaches and prime surfing waves.

Australia Surfers Rescued
Rescue workers with some of the Australian survivors as they are reunited with friends on Pinang Island on Tuesday. National Search and Rescue Agency / AFP – Getty Images

It’s unclear exactly how the group ended up in the sea.

The Indonesian search-and-rescue agency said Monday it had dispatched a rescue team and an aircraft crew to scan the area where the group was thought to be missing.

In a video the agency posted but later removed, four people can be seen floating in the sea, cheering as their rescuers approach. “Yes! Woo,” they can be heard saying.

Surfers rescued in Indonesia
Rescued Indonesian national Muhammad Ikbal, center, speaks with crews at sea during the search for survivors Tuesday.National Search and Rescue Agency / AFP – Getty Images

Peter Foote said he was told that his son had paddled his surfboard to an island to raise the alarm and that the three other Australians were found clinging to their boards at sea. It is not clear how the two Indonesians survived.

“Our thoughts are with the family of the third crew member, for whom the search continues,” the Australian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s spokesperson said in a statement confirming the rescue.

Peter Foote said his son and his friends would continue the vacation.

“I want him to finish his holiday,” he said. “If the surf’s great and the weather’s come good and they’re having a great time and they’re with their best mates, you know, there’s no point in him coming home.”

Accidents at sea are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands where ferries and boats are common forms of transportation.

Mithil Aggarwal

Mithil Aggarwal is a freelance journalist based in Hong Kong.

The Associated Press


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