Surfers’ miracle survival story interests TV networks, movie studios

Celebrations after a miracle survival are tempered by the loss of a local fisherman and guide.

Celebrations after a miracle survival are tempered by the loss of a local fisherman and guide. Photo: Instagram/Elliotfoote

It’s not the first time – or the last time – that a real-life miracle survival story has been fought over in back-room television deals, or has captured the imagination of Hollywood movie studios.

In Australia, there’s the 2012 dramatisation, Beaconsfield, about the Tasmanian miners Brant Webb (Shane Jacobson) and Todd Russell (Lachy Hulme) who were trapped a kilometre below ground after a mine collapse.

There was the  2002 TV movie Heroes’ Mountain, starring Craig McLachlan who played Stuart Diver, the sole survivor of the 1997 Thredbo ski lodge landslide tragedy.

Naomi Watts starred in The Impossible in 2012, which relives the horror and traces one family’s fight for survival after the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, which killed more than 200,000 people.

The Thai cave rescue of the young soccer team? That has been made into a total of five films, documentaries and dramatisations.

As details continue to emerge of the miracle survival of four Australian surfers after a 36-hour ordeal floating on surfboards off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province, speculation is mounting that TV networks and movie studios are already reaching out.

It’s too soon for Elliot Foote, his partner Steph Weisse, Jordan Short and Will Teagle to negotiate any sort of deal as they continue to recover from their ordeal.

Their friends and family want them to finish the trip to the Banyak Islands off Sumatra and the untouched surfing mecca, Pinang Island, to celebrate Mr Foote’s 30th birthday.

“They are there for another eight days. Hopefully, they will feed them up and he will be back out there enjoying it,” Mr Foote’s father, Peter, said.

“He has a great story to tell.”

Speaking to Sky News Australia, a friend of Ms Weisse’s from Mullumbimby on the New South Wales north coast couldn’t contain her delight they were found, adding: “We are all saying surely this will be made into a movie.”

‘Elation, guilt’

But, with “joyful young” fisherman and guide Fifan Satria still missing from the wooden boat that capsized and left the group floating on surfboards on August 13, Elliot Foote’s top priority is all about the local community.

In a lengthy and heartbreaking Instagram post on Thursday, he says “the last few days have been something that I cannot comprehend. 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, 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.

He then addresses Mr Satria: “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.”


The four Australians grabbed their surfboards as the boat began capsizing. Photo: TND

A crowdfunding page, Lost At Sea: Help us help a community, has been set up with a $100,000 goal for Mr Satria and his family, to compensate search-and-rescue teams, and to better equip local maritime services for the next emergency.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Mr Foote, 30, grew up in Sydney and went to elite eastern suburbs private school, Scots College.

He’s a carpenter and lives with Ms Weisse, 31, who works at a gardening nursery in northern NSW.

Mr Short, 28, is also a carpenter, and lives in Byron Bay.

They want to give back to the Indonesian Haloban community, “who helped save a group of strangers’ lives despite still having a family member missing,” writes Amy Teagle in her GoFundMe introduction.

They want to say thank you and compensate the search-and-rescue teams who “volunteered their resources, time and efforts without a second thought, and where possible, we will use these funds to relieve the financial burden of their rescue effort”.

‘The Pinang 12’

Without a doubt, the scriptwriting team will have a wealth of material, and a story that will write itself – if initial footage is anything to go by.

The New Daily has reached out to Mr Foote for comment on speculation aired on Melbourne radio on Thursday that “networks were waving the cheque book” and that movie studios were hovering.

Mr Foote, who started his adventure with hiking in the North Sumatran jungle and seeing orangutans, referred to the group as the “Pinang 12” – no doubt, a great working title for a dramatisation.

Australian Grant Richardson spent the night sailing his yacht, the Sea Mi Amor, searching for the missing friends and they were found.

But Mr Foote wasn’t with the group. He was five kilometres away.

After the boat capsized, he had decided to paddle towards a nearby island for help, battling pouring rain, a strong current and hallucinations.

In footage shot shortly after his rescue, he described seeing his girlfriend and mates standing on a little island nearby.

“I was thinking ‘oh there are my mates’ … they’re waving and saying ‘goodo’,” Mr Foote said.

“I’m paddling to that island and I’m not making any ground.

“I’m like ‘What the hell’.”

His father Peter later recounted receiving a message from Elliot that simply read: ““Hey Dad, Elliot here. I am alive, safe now, love you.

“Chat later.”

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