Desperate message in the sand saves badly injured surfer

A seriously injured and exhausted surfer has been rescued from an isolated beach in New Zealand after he lost his board in large swell and washed up on rocks.

Ben Searancke had been surfing at Karekare Beach in West Auckland when he got caught in the surf and washed up on Mercer Bay, to the north.

With a deep cut to his leg, Mr Searancke tried for two hours to walk back to Karekare through steep bush tracks but he wasn’t able to, the NZ Herald reported.

Left with little options, the injured man returned to the sand and managed to write HELP in large letters before collapsing on the beach.

A message in the sand reads 'HELP' as a seriously injured surfer lies nearby, exhausted.
Ben Searancke managed to write the message in the sand before collapsing on the beach. Source: Surf Life Saving New Zealand

Incredibly, two walkers at the southern end of Mercer Bay saw Mr Searancke’s message and called for help.

In the time that he had been trapped, Mr Searancke’s wife had called police to report him missing after she failed to hear from him.

Shortly after being spotted by the hikers, the surfer was rescued by United North Piha Surf Club and taken to hospital.

He told the New Zealand Herald he was grateful to be found, particularly because of the recent birth of his daughter.

"I've just been through a harrowing experience, and my wife and I just had a newborn baby - 5 days old - so waking up this morning I was feeling very thankful and lucky to be alive,” he said.

Mercer Bay beach is photographed from the top of one of the cliffs surrounding the beach.
Mercer Bay is surrounded by steep cliffs and unforgiving terrain. Source: Google Maps

Search and Rescue supervisor John-Michael Swannix told it was incredibly lucky the man’s message was seen.

“The message in the sand is not visible from the walking tracks at the northern end of Mercer Bay, so it was very lucky the informant and her friend were at the southern end and able to see it.”

Mr Swannix issued a timely reminder to always go swimming or surfing with another person.

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