HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) -- Two Athens, Tenn. women are safe after a storm blew them out to sea for eight hours until they finally managed to regain land after eight hours.
Half-sisters, Cayci Underwood, 27, and Summer Underwood, 21, set out from Tybee Island, Georgia, when they were caught by stormy weather. Eight hours later they abandoned their paddleboards when they were in sight of Hilton Head Island. They told reporter Rebecca Lurye with IslandPacket.com
that it took 45 minutes to make it ashore. They were shocked to learn they had drifted, or been blown, all the way from Tybee Island to Hilton Head, nearly 8 miles from where they started.
The women headed out about 12:30 p.m. and collapsed on the Hilton Head beach about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday. They were sunburned, scraped and exhausted by their eight-hour ordeal. Both women were wearing life jackets.
"[The wind] took us away so fast, there was no getting back from it," Summer said.
At one point the sisters lost each other during the storm, found each other again when the storm passed and the sky cleared.
When they finally spotted land again about 7 p.m., the current was still working against them.
Summer said she was at first terrified to strike out in the open water unbuoyed.
"I thought, 'If we leave the board, we have nothing to hold onto if we don't make it to shore,'" Summer said. "It's sink or swim."
Once on the beach, EMS treated the sisters for shock and exhaustion and wrapped their scapes caused by struggle to stay on the boards.
Summer told Lurye that the experience brought her closer to Cayci, who joined her on vacation by chance after Summer's plans to go with a friend fell through.
"I think they were an inspiration to each other," Summer's mother, 48-year-old Pauletta Gound, said in a telephone interview Wednesday from her home in Tennessee. "It was meant to be, we just didn't know what the reason was, I guess."
Gound said she "thanked God" the pair was safe.
She said she didn't know they were missing until they were ashore.
"I don't know how I would have reacted if they told me she was lost at sea," Gound said of her daughter.