The Pelagic surfboat offers helping hand to Mentawai, Indonesia tsunami survivors

By Marisa Griffin

Am I Dreaming?

As a six-year-old boy clings to a tree branch high above the ground, he tries to ignore the intense pain shooting down his leg in order to decide whether he is dreaming or not. He trembles with fear as he remembers falling asleep that night and being awakened by the sound of a massive roaring wave.

He told rescuers he remembers jumping out of bed and grabbing his surfboard just as the water came rushing through his bedroom, destroying his home and washing him half a mile into the jungle.

It is dark and he is scared and all alone. He thinks this is what it’s like to be dead, but his instincts tell him he must get out of that tree. He waits for daylight to appear before he climbs down with a broken leg and crawls aimlessly through the jungle in search of someone to help him.

“He has grown up in the Mentawai Islands and has been taught that a stream leads to the ocean,” a villager explains. He follows the sound of running water. As he reaches the edge of a stream, he clenches a piece of driftwood for dear life and floats in hope of reaching safety.

Stoked for Surf

Meanwhile, a group of friends excitedly board the Pelagic surfboat and depart from Padang, Western Sumatra on Oct. 26, 2010. Anxious to score the best waves of their lives, they begin their 14-day exploration through the Indian Ocean between the Mentawai Islands of Western Sumatra in Indonesia.

They were informed of the previous day’s earthquake and tsunami, but the severity of devastation was unknown. They had no idea that their adventure was about to turn into the life-changing experience of witnessing the desolation of entire communities throughout the islands.

The captain of the Pelagic, Griff Alker, decided it would be a good idea to bring along some extra supplies just in case some of the villagers were affected by the tsunami.

Natural Disaster Strikes

The night of Oct. 25, at 9:42 p.m., a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit South Pagai island, sending a massive tsunami sweeping through villages on North Pagai island, Sipora and South Pagai island.

Thomas Carson, owner of the Bear Flag Fish Co. in Newport Beach, Calif., was one of the surfers aboard the Pelagic. As he tells me of his experience, he recalls the rainy and dreary weather leading up to their arrival on North Pagai island.

“We were going to surf a spot called Green Bush, discovered six years ago, on the south side of North Pagai,” Carson says.

As the Pelagic drew closer to Green Bush, the men on board were able to get a clear view of the village along the shore.

“The beaches looked like a bulldozer had gone through and destroyed everything. The trees were uprooted and the people looked scared,” Carson explained in a telephone interview a few months later.

They knew then and there that their arrival was an answer to the villager’s desperate cries for help.

They quickly forgot about the waves and made their way to the villagers, who were wandering around in shock.  They had no idea where to begin; people were injured, dead and their homes were destroyed.

Rescuers explained that 200 of the 300 villagers had been buried in massive graves on the beach and 49 of the 53 children were dead.

The captain of the Pelagic, Griff, along with the others, was extremely thankful they had decided to bring along rice, canned food, fruit, water and clothing for these desperate people huddled under tents. The people, their homes and all their belongings had been swallowed by a 12-meter high tsunami.

Search and rescue team members had already made their way to the village and had been pulling bodies out of the jungle for days when they came across a little boy floating down the river all alone.

He was reunited with the few other survivors and put to rest under a tent, villagers explained.  Nobody could believe that he had survived for three days in the jungle and lived to tell the story to his father.

Carson and the men made their way to the tent to try and help the little boy, whose name is unknown. Villagers had told Carson that the little boy had survived for three days on sugar cane and rain-water, so they gave him a new box of cereal. They even saw a glimpse of a smile when they gave him a new pair of sunglasses.

The Pelagic ended up taking him and his father, along with another man who had lost his wife and three children, to the hospital in Sikakap. In Sikakap, the Indonesian government had tents and medical aid waiting for survivors.

The Pelagic and the men aboard did all they could to help these people. They made trips to and from the hospital and delivered as many supplies as possible.

As they departed the Metawais, helicopters and boats continued to drop off supplies to the devastated areas and the survivors tried to begin rebuilding their lives.

Green Bush village, as the surfers call it, was only one of the many villages destroyed by the tsunami.

“We will never forget our experience and we can only imagine having such a devastating disaster occur in our own lives,” Carson says.

The surfers aboard the Pelagic extended a helping hand out of the goodness of their hearts and hope that the people’s lives they helped save can one day be rebuilt.