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Australian surfers ‘stoked to be alive’ as they heap praise on Indonesia rescuers

By Jessie Yeung, Angus Watson and Elizabeth Yee, CNN

(CNN) — Four Australian surfers who were saved after 38 hours at sea have spoken publicly for the first time after their miraculous rescue, thanking those involved in the operation, as the search continues for one more person still missing.

Australians Steph Weisse, Will Teagle, Jordan Short and Elliot Foote, and two unnamed Indonesian nationals were found floating on their surfboards on Tuesday morning. They had gone missing Sunday off the Sumatran coast in western Indonesia, after their boat was struck by a storm.

According to their families, the four Australians were on a surf trip in Indonesia to celebrate Foote’s 30th birthday. One Indonesian among the group remains missing.

“We’re really happy to be back on land now, dry, hydrated, fed, back with our friends,” said Foote in a video supplied to CNN by a spokesperson for the families. The video shows all four Australians sitting outdoors surrounded by greenery, some still just wearing their swimwear.

Teagle chimed in, saying he was “so stoked to be alive.”

The group thanked the Indonesian and Australian governments for coordinating rescue efforts, and for the group’s friends for participating in the search.

“There were some moments out there where we were quite nervous and didn’t quite know what the outcome was going to be, but we just banded together,” Foote said.

He praised the other surfers for being “so strong,” describing their time lost in the open ocean as efficient with no arguments between the members. “Every single moment they just knew what to do, we just took charge and followed each other,” he said.

Short agreed, saying the “crazy experience” had bonded the four of them closer together.

Weisse, Foote’s girlfriend, said she was “beyond words.”

“What we went through and experienced was so intense but we’re so proud of ourselves how we just didn’t give up until the last moment out there for so long,” she said, adding that the group felt “so blessed and so loved” after the massive rescue operation.

The group offered their thoughts to the Indonesian crew member still missing, and to his friends and family. The names of the Indonesian crew who were on board the boat have not been shared yet by authorities.

“It’s hard to think about, we just hope the best for him, his family and friends and his village,” said Foote, adding that the group now wanted the time and privacy to recover and rest.

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.

Footage of the dramatic rescue on Tuesday showed both the stranded castaways on their surfboards and their rescuers cheering and shouting as they realized they’d successfully found each other. The rescuers who found them were on a surf charter boat involved in the frantic search operation.

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