Surfing a tsunami

A surfer from New Zealand has recounted how he survived the Pacific tsunami last week by riding out the succession of waves for almost an hour clutching his board.

When the 8.3-magnitude quake struck on the morning of September 30, Chris Nel was catching waves on the south coast of Samoa’s north-western island of Savai’i with five companions.

‘All of a sudden the water went real weird, it kind of glassed off and got real lumpy, then we started moving real quick, getting sucked out to sea,” Nel said. ‘It was pretty scary looking back and seeing the reef completely dried up. It looked like a volcanic riverbed — it was just gone.”

A big spurt of water then hit the shore, said Nel. ‘I was thinking, ‘this is it, we’re going to get smashed into the jungle’.” Nel said he and his companions spent up to 45 minutes floating and trying to time the surges to avoid being smashed on the coral or the beach.

Once ashore they realised their surf camp had been destroyed and most of their belongings washed away. ‘I found one of my surfboards in the jungle,” said Nel, who flew out in a pair of jeans he found in the jungle. His tale comes as another two earthquakes struck about 150km off the coasts of Samoa and Tonga.

The United States Geological Survey said the quakes had magnitudes of 5.1 and 4.9, much weaker than the first one. No tsunami alerts were issued. —

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