The arrival of the first wave, smashing against the wooden boat, set off a desperate scramble for gear: knives, warm clothing, headlamps, water. The second wave sent the passengers diving overboard, as the boat tipped forward into the ocean.
Elliot Foote, Will Teagle, Jordan Short and Steph Weisse, four Australians who were on vacation in Indonesia, had boarded a rickety longboat on Sunday for a two-hour, 45-mile journey from the island of Nias, off the coast of North Sumatra, Indonesia, to Pinang Island.
But a storm swept through, knocking the boat off course and ultimately scuttling the vessel.
“When the first one came in, Jordy was like, ‘All right, guys, this could be serious,’” Mr. Foote said in a video posted to social media. “As we were hit by the next one,” he added, using an expletive for emphasis, “I was like, ‘Everybody get out!’”
The disappearance of the charter boat set off a desperate search for the four Australians and the boat’s three-member Indonesian crew. Multiple Australian and Indonesian crews led the effort, with assistance from local fishermen, private vessels and even a private airplane chartered by family members and the Australian government.
Two days later, on Tuesday, three of the Australians and one of the Indonesian crew members were found floating on surfboards and surfboard bags they had salvaged from the ship — hungry, thirsty and tired, but otherwise unharmed.
The group was ultimately found by Grant Richardson, the Australian skipper of a private catamaran, Sea Mi Amor.
Footage captured by Ben Cradock, a friend of the Australian tourists, showed the moment the four people were discovered, amid whoops of joy, bobbing on an undulating sea beneath a clear blue sky, their hands gripping the sides of their surfboards.
Mr. Foote, who had paddled away to look for help, was found by local fishermen more than 20 miles from the others. Two members of the boat’s Indonesian crew were also rescued on Tuesday — one was with the three Australians found floating on surfboards; the other was found separately. They were identified as Mohammad Iqbal and Junardi Akhmad. The third Indonesian crew member, Fivan Satria, was still missing on Thursday.
In a separate video recording, Mr. Foote described how the group had held firm even amid the agony of being lost at sea. “There were some moments out there where we were all quite nervous and didn’t quite know what the outcome was going to be,” he said. “But we just banded together.”
“We just took charge and just followed each other,” he added. “There were no arguments, ever; we were just strong, as a unit.”
Speaking to the Australian news media, Amy Teagle, Mr. Teagle’s sister, described how the boat had sunk late in the evening. “It was pitch-black, and they grabbed what they could,” she said.
Over two nights floating in the ocean, “they had no idea where they were, what direction they were facing,” Ms. Teagle said. “By the grace of God, I guess they managed to paddle into what ended up being the right direction.”
At home in Australia, family members endured a stomach-churning wait for news from Indonesia.
In an interview with the Australian news channel 9News, Peter Foote, Mr. Foote’s father, described the intense dread he had experienced during the group’s disappearance.
“You feel it physically, in the stomach, everywhere,” he said. “It is really painful. Anyone who has been through it will know and understand. I haven’t felt like this before. My heart is aching. It is just terrible.”
Elliot Foote had organized the trip for his 30th birthday, assembling a group of 12 people for 10 days of surfing in the Banyak Islands, off the western coast of North Sumatra in western Indonesia. Eight members of the group were on a separate boat at the time of the accident and made it to Pinang Island unscathed.
“The last few days have been something that I cannot comprehend,” Mr. Foote wrote in a post on Instagram on Wednesday. “My emotions are incredibly mixed; elation, guilt, complete adrenaline, anxiety, pure joy and happiness.”
“From the moment the boat went under until the time we were reunited on Pinang Island,” he added, “uncertainty was the only certainty.”
In an interview with ABC Radio in Australia, Peter Foote said that his son was “all covered in rashes and cuts and stuff, all down the side of his body, but he’s all good.”
The group plans to continue the surfing trip, he added. “I don’t know how he can paddle out into the water again,” he said, “but he will.”
Elliot Foote paid tribute to Mr. Satria, the missing crew member, in his Instagram post, expressing his condolences to the family of the group’s “joyful young guide.”
“I wish there was more we could have done to help you, and that will stay with me as a burden to bear,” he wrote.
In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. Satria’s younger sister, Farima Purnamasari, said her family believed he was still alive. “Dad said he will keep searching until he finds him,” she said. “He will not stop looking.”