One of two surfers embroiled in a raging sea off St. Vincent's in St. Mary’s Bay was rescued Saturday afternoon by fast rescue craft from the oil tanker Beothuk Spirit, called to the scene by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Midafternoon, onshore lookers at St. Vincent's waited anxiously through the drama unfolding as departing post tropical storm Michael, with winds gusting to more than 100 km/h stirred up swells.
Apparently the two surfers went out to test their mettle against the waves. As seas got rougher and winds picked up, one of them made it to the shore, without their surfboard, bruised but safe, onlookers reported.
The other surfer had to wait in the rough seas for assistance as it was too dangerous to attempt to make it to shore.
Police and emergency responders rushed to the scene, but could do little but watch as winds grew higher and the sea grew rougher.
Cliff Doran, a lighthouse keeper who lives in Trepassey, was in the area taking photos and noticed a surveillance aircraft circling off St. Vincent’s.
He went by to take a look.
“I was wondering what the heck was going on,” he told The Telegram Sunday morning. After speaking to several friends who lived in the area, he too stood by to watch the scene, taking video of the event. The situation was tense.
“The other surfer made a wise move,” Doran said. “The seas had come up heavy, and it wasn’t safe to try to make shore. Seas were too rough, and the undertow there is wicked.”
Doran’s friend Roy Flemming, who lives in the area, was one of a number of people on the scene. He told Doran he had called in the report to search and rescue after noticing the surfers were in trouble.
Hope it's not a tragedy on St. Vincent's beach. Surfers there earlier today 😔 pic.twitter.com/RnQr3Jupkr— Debi (@Deb0304) October 13, 2018
The surveillance plane continued to circle, joined by the RCMP and a helicopter. Fire services and the local ambulance waited, lights flashing. Social media posts began appearing.
The Beothuk Spirit, which had been in the area of Admiral’s Beach, responded after being called in by Search and Rescue, and sent out its fast rescue team to help the sea-stranded surfer.
“Those guys were just incredible,” Doran said. The second surfer was rescued amid crashing waves and wind gusts and brought aboard. It was a dangerous situation and rescuers showed great skill and good training, he said.
“Seas were too rough land at St. Vincent's,” he said. The rescuers brought the sea-battered surfer to Admiral’s Beach where they were taken by ambulance for medical attention.
Doran shared some pictures and his video to his Facebook page.
“The rescue took a long while,” he said. But it was a happy ending. “I don’t mind sharing happy endings.”
He later posted a note to the fast rescue crew of the tanker.
"A big thankyou to the crew of the Beothuk Spirit for your bravery this evening in St. Vincents," his post reads.
The Telegram is following this story and will update with new information as it becomes available.