Australian surfers found floating on boards after going missing off coast of Indonesia

Four Australian surfers have been found alive after surviving two days in the waters of Indonesia when a trip to celebrate a 30th birthday took a dramatic turn.

Elliot Foote, his partner Steph Weisse and friends Will Teagle and Jordan Short, along with two Indonesians, were rescued on Tuesday morning off the Aceh province after a wooden speed boat they were travelling in ran into bad weather on Sunday.

Three of the Australian tourists and the two locals had been clinging to their surfboards in a group when help arrived, an emotional video posted by one of their friends to Instagram showed.

The group was found by their two friends along with a surf guide, captain and deckhand, an update posted by friend Ben Cradock said.

The fourth Australian surfer, Mr Foote, was reportedly rescued by a local fisherman more than 20 miles away after being lost at sea by himself. He was dropped at a nearby surf camp.

One Indonesian remains missing, according to the head of the local rescue agency.

Three Australians and two Indonesians were found together on Tuesday (@bennycradock)
Three Australians and two Indonesians were found together on Tuesday (@bennycradock)

They were part of a group of 12 tourists and five Indonesians who were travelling to Pinang Island on two wooden boats when the weather turned.

The boats left Nias island, which is located around 93 miles from Indonesia’s Sumatra island, on Sunday afternoon and experienced very heavy rain during the trip.

Ten of them decided to stay and shelter on Sarang Alu island, while the others continued the trip.

The resort on Pinang Island later reported that the boat with 10 passengers had safely arrived later on Sunday, but the boat that had left earlier had not been seen.

The father of Elliot Foote said his son had travelled to Indonesia to celebrate his 30th birthday with friends.

Elliot Foote after his rescue (@bennycradock)
Elliot Foote after his rescue (@bennycradock)

Peter Foote had been speaking to Australian reporters on Tuesday when he found out the group was safe via a message from his son.

"It says: ‘Hey Dad, Elliot here. I’m alive. Safe now. Love you. Chat later’,”’ Peter Foote said at a news conference in Sydney.

"It’s great, it’s good news. I’ll have to talk to him and want to see photos and see what he looks like. It’s all good."

The details of how the group of Australian surfers and Indonesians ended up in the sea remain unclear.

Peter Foote was told his son had paddled his surfboard to an island to raise the alarm, and that the other three Australians were found clinging to their boards at sea.

It is not clear how the two Indonesians survived.

The six who were rescued were taken to Pinang island for further medical assistance.

Peter Foote said he expected his son and friends would continue the final eight days of their surfing vacation. Pinang Island is known for its pristine beach and good waves for surfing.

Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, and ferries and boats are a common form of transportation. With lax safety standards and problems with overcrowding, accidents occur frequently.

In July, an overloaded passenger boat capsized off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, killing 15 people.

In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people on board sank in a lake in North Sumatra province, killing 167 people.

In one of the country’s worst recorded disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. Only 20 people survived.