Australian surfers rescued in waters off remote Indonesian island after 38 hours missing at sea

Aug 15, 2023, 1:38 PM

Elliot Foote and Steph Weisse were among the four rescued surfers.
Mandatory Credit:	Family handout...

Elliot Foote and Steph Weisse were among the four rescued surfers. Mandatory Credit: Family handout

(CNN) — Four Australian surfers who went missing after their boat was struck by a storm in a remote part of Indonesia have been rescued after more than 38 hours at sea, according to parents of the missing tourists.

Australians Steph Weisse, Will Teagle, Jordan Short and two unnamed Indonesian nationals were found “bobbing on surfboards” by a surf charter boat involved in the frantic rescue to locate the group.

Dramatic video of that moment showed both the stranded castaways on their surfboards cheering and hollering alongside their rescuers as they realized they had successfully found each other in a vast expanse of ocean.

A further search picked up Australian Elliot Foote, however one Indonesian crew member remains missing.

Foote’s father, Peter Foote, said his son was separated from the rest of the group because he’d gone looking for assistance.

“He left his mates bobbing in the water to go to search for help. The charter boat found them and then went and found Elliot,” Peter said.

“I’m really happy it’s all turned out well and I hope he continues with his holiday,” Peter told CNN.

“He’s in a great place to celebrate, with his girlfriend [Weisse] and 10 mates in paradise. He’s still got eight nights to enjoy then I’m looking forward to him coming straight home.”

The group’s boat was last seen Sunday evening local time after they encountered bad weather and heavy rain on a journey to the remote Pinang island from Nias, a popular surfing destination some 150 kilometers from Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.

A second boat with the rest of the party successfully reached Pinang Island Sunday evening, the families said, helping to raise the alarm.

While Indonesian authorities conducted search and rescue efforts with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the families of the four Australians said the surf charter boats made all the difference by using their local knowledge of the currents to locate where the group may have drifted.

According to their families, the four Australians were on a surf trip in Indonesia to celebrate Foote’s 30th birthday.

Friends in Australia have hailed what they described as a near miraculous rescue.

“Now that all four have been found we can just be so so grateful,” Ellie Sedgwick, who described herself as Weisse’s best friend since they were 17, told CNN.

“Her mum and I were speaking the whole way through, just saying if anyone can survive this, it’s Steph,” she added.

“It’s funny because Steph actually had that conversation with us before she left. The last thing she said to us was, it’s amazing that you know we only get one life…we kept replaying that conversation over and over in our heads.”

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, DFAT said “the Australian Government expresses its deep gratitude” to those involved in the search and rescue efforts.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong said in a tweet that the government will “continue to provide support to the four Australians and their families.”

“The search continues for a crew member who is still missing,” she wrote. “Our thoughts are with them and their loved ones.”

The names of the Indonesian crew who were on board the boat have not been shared yet by authorities.

Indonesia has long been a popular destination for Australian tourists thanks to its proximity and a wealth of budget flights to places like Bali.

The western island of Sumatra is one of Indonesia’s less commonly traveled destinations but the coral-fringed islands around Nias are popular with intrepid surfers and boast multiple world class breaks, particularly around Lagundri Bay.

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Australian surfers rescued in waters off remote Indonesian island after 38 hours missing at sea