A surfer who vanished off the coast of Indonesia shared how thrilled he was to be back in the island paradise just hours before he went missing.
Elliot Foote is one of four Australians who vanished after their charter boat failed to return from a remote island off North Sumatra.
The group, including Steph Weisse, Jordan Short and Will Teagle, were on a birthday surfing trip and were travelling on a longboat to Banyak Island near Banda Aceh when they hit bad weather.
A search operation was launched on Monday, with Indonesian authorities among those looking for the missing boat.
A day earlier, Mr Foote – from Northern NSW – wrote on Instagram that it was “so good” to be back in Indonesia.
“Soho gulah Sorake … so good being back in Indo after so many years. Sharing waves with mates and the queen,” Mr Foote wrote.
“Starting the trip off with hiking in the North Sumatran jungle and seeing Orangutan’s was an amazng experince and something that I look forward to doing again for a longer time and going deeper.
“Bukit Lawang is a beautiful spot with such kind people.”
The eerie last message was adjoined by photos of Mr Foote surfing alongside his partner, Ms Weisse.
Indonesia authorities on Monday released the names of the four missing holidaymakers.
Australian and Indonesian search crews were dispatched on Monday to try and find the group, who are all from NSW.
Indonesian authorities, local fisherman, and a private plane chartered for by the Australian government scanning the waves.
The search effort, which is also looking for three Indonesian crewmen missing from the boat, was called off at sunset.
Previously, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the Australian families had been informed of the search.
“A search and rescue operation is underway following reports of a missing vessel off the west coast of Indonesia,” the spokesman said.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the families of four Australians on-board.
“It is working closely with Indonesian authorities to support search and rescue efforts.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those missing during this distressing time.”
The group of 12 Australians in total had been travelling in Sumatra and on the island of Nias to celebrate Mr Foote’s 30th birthday.
On Instagram, Mr Foote shared details and photos of the groups travels, including to the popular nature park Bukit Lawang.
Setting off got Banyak Island, the group of 12 are understood to have separated onto two boats.
One boat took refuge on Sarang Alu, an island between the two the group were travelling between on Sunday.
The eight tourists on board arrived safely at their destination on Sunday night.
The other, containing the four missing people, is understood to have opted to have continued travelling.
Mr Foote’s father, Peter Foote, told The Daily Telegraph he was at his home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs when he got the call.
“I think my heart stopped, all the blood drained from me, it’s horrible news,” he said.
“Then I had to go and tell everyone else, the boys who made it safely to the island.
“But I’m optimistic. The water (during the storm) apparently wasn’t that rough.
“ I assume the engine’s broken or the boat missed the island altogether in the storm …
“They’re probably just floating out there, they have some shelter and a bit of food.”
Mr Foote described the group as “resilient, resourceful kids”, and said he was “hoping for a call anytime.”
His son Elliot , who is a carpenter, is a former Scots College student.
He recently moved to Murwillumbah in northern NSW to be with Ms Weisse.
The elder Mr Foote had paid for his son to go on the fateful trip to Indonesia with his 11 “best mates”.
The group were all high school friends from Sydney and surfing mates from northern NSW, as a gift for his 30th birthday.
In a statement released through DFAT, the families of the four missing Aussies said they hoped to hear good news soon.
“Our hearts are aching at the thought that Elliot, Steph, Will and Jordan are missing at sea,” the four families said.
“We continue to pray and hold out hope they will be found.
“We’d like to thank the Indonesian authorities and the Australian government for their ongoing assistance while search efforts continue.
“We ask that the media respect the privacy of our family and friends during this distressing time.”
Mr Teagle’s sister Amy took to social media on Monday asking anyone who might be travelling in the area to offer assistance in the search.
“My brother and three of his mates are missing,” Ms Teagle said.
“Please if you know anyone in Sumatra that can offer any assistance let me know.”
Speaking to the media on Monday, Indonesian National Search and Rescue agency Nias Island chief Octavianto said search teams had been dispatched to find those missing.
“Last night the Pinang Resort reported that a speedboat with 10 passengers had arrived in Pinang Island (at about 10.18pm local time), while another speedboat with seven people on board had not arrived yet,” he said.
“We’ve deployed three ships … and they are now moving towards the location for search and rescue. However, the issue is that the (missing vessel) is a basic wooden boat without any tracking devices or the like.”
Poor weather and visibility have hindered the ability of search parties to locate the missing Aussies.
The search follows a string of high-profile incidents involving Australians, particularly in Indonesia’s restive Aceh province.
Noosa man Bodhi Risby-Jones was asked to pay $61,000 to the families of people involved in alleged drunken rampage on Simeulue Island.
The island is likewise located off the western Sumatra coast nearby to where the four Australians disappeared on Sunday.