The skipper who led the rescue of the four Australian surfers left stranded off the Indonesian coast for two nights after their boat sank has revealed the extraordinary steps they took to survive.
Elliot Foote, girlfriend Steph Weisse and friends Will Teagle and Jordan Short were left adrift in waters off Indonesia‘s Sumatra island after their wooden longboat ran into rough conditions on Sunday night.
The four had been holidaying in Indonesia with eight other friends to celebrate Mr Foote’s upcoming 30th birthday.
All four Aussies and two of their Indonesian boat crew spent 36 hours in the middle of the ocean until help finally arrived on Tuesday morning.
They were floating on surfboards in open water when rescuers finally arrived.
Grant Richardson, an Australian who led the rescue operation, revealed that the group drank rainwater off their hair to survive the challenging conditions.
Grant Richardson, an Australian who led the rescue operation, revealed that the group drank rainwater off their hair to survive the challenging conditions
Aussie surfers Steph Weisse, Elliot Foote, Will Teagle and Jordan Short (pictured, left to right) spent 36 hours lost at seas before they were finally rescued
‘They were drinking water off their hair when it rained, so it was pretty lucky,’ Mr Richardson told A Current Affair.
‘The rain actually gave them some sustenance and they were smart enough to say, ‘guys, we just need to keep drinking as much as we can, while it is raining’.’
The group also can credit their survival to their quick thinking when it became clear the boat was going down.
‘They got hit on the side of the boat a couple of times by waves, the boat started to flood, and they were smart enough to say, ‘OK, guys, quick let’s start getting some gear together, in case we do end up in the water’,’ Mr Richardson said.
‘They grabbed surfboards, they grabbed wetsuits, rash tops, they were smart thinkers. A lot of people in that situation don’t think on their feet.’
Meanwhile the Aussies are heartbroken that their Indonesian guide Fifan has not been yet been found four days on.
The Aussie surfers’ boat guide Fifan (pictured) is still missing, four days after the boat capsized
The group had travelled to Indonesia to celebrate Mr Foote’s birthday, (pictured, Mr Foote and Ms Weisse)
‘My deepest thoughts are with the family of Fifan. Our joyful young guide who hasn’t been found,’ Mr Foote posted on Thursday.
‘I wish there was more we could have done to help you, and that will stay with me as a burden to bear.’
‘I understand the loneliness you must’ve felt in those hours by yourself, and my condolences to your family.’
The incredible moment that Steph, Will and Jordan, along with two boat crew were found floating on surfboards was captured on camera, with the group cheering as their rescuers came closer to the group.
Not seen in the footage was Mr Foote, who had swum off to paddle to land and was found 5km away from the group hours later.
Elliot Foote suffered from sunburn and skin rashes after he spent 36 hours at sea
The search began when their boat that was travelling from the remote Banyak Island did not reach its final destination at Pinang Island on Sunday night.
The four surfers and their crew had chosen to push on through the rough weather on Sunday night while a group of eight of their friends took shelter on Saran Alu.
Mr Foote went on to say the experience was ‘something that I cannot comprehend’.
‘My emotions are incredibly mixed; elation, guilt, complete adrenaline, anxiety, pure joy and happiness,’ he said.
‘From the moment the boat went under until the time we were reunited on Pinang Island, uncertainty was the only certainty.
‘I didn’t know if my eight friends had made it to the island on the Sunday night before us, if my girlfriend Steph, Will and Jordan had been found and rescued before me or if I needed to get out there and find them.’
Elliot Foote has thanked everyone involved in the search
Mr Foote’s thoughts are with the family of Fifan (pictured), the group’s joyful guide who hasn’t been found
Mr Foote took time to thank those who supported the frantic search.
‘To all my friends, family and the greater global community who have reached out. To show love, check in on my wellbeing and get some idea of what happened. Thank you, it means so much to me,’ he said.
‘I’m truly moved and am filled with love and gratitude for life.
Mr Foote also paid tribute to the ‘Pinang 12’ who were in Indonesia with him to celebrate his birthday
‘What a bunch of absolute weapons,’ he continued.
‘Everyone played their part in rescue efforts, negotiations, no one stopped until their friends were found and the search continued for Fifan.
‘The ‘lucky’ four. True grit and determination in a life and death situation, paddling for hours on end with nothing but a hunch. I love you guys.’
This is the incredible moment Steph Weisse, Will Teagle and Jordan Short and an Indonesian crew member were located after 36 hours lost at sea
Mr Foote was pictured enjoying a beer after being rescued from Indonesian waters where he survived by floating on a surfboard