A 17-year-old paddle boarder from Portugal was rescued from the sea after spending 20 hours alone on a stand-up paddle board. According to reports, Erica Vicente went for a paddle late in the afternoon of April 15 when she was swept out to sea and couldn’t get back to shore.
Vicente was paddle boarding off Coelho Beach on the Algarve coast when the wind and the currents pulled her far from the coast. Her father, who realized that she was in trouble, attempted to save her, but he wasn’t able to reach her. He called the authorities at around 8 p.m. that evening, and a massive search party began to look for her. The Portuguese Air Force, a rescue boat from Spain, and parts of the national guard and civil protection services were all part of the rescue operation.
“We received the information that a young woman had entered the sea with a paddle board and, somehow panicked, got scared, and was unable to paddle back to shore,” Afonso Martins, port captain and commander of the maritime police said.
Boats were dispatched and helicopters ran laps of the area where they thought she might be, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Vicente ended up spending the night alone on her paddle board, wearing only a bikini. The search continued through the night and for most of the next day, but it wasn’t the search party that found her.
At just after 5 p.m. the next day, the crew aboard a vessel called the MSC Reef, bound for Morocco, spotted her adrift nearly 30 miles from where she initially paddled out. They were able to get her onboard, then called for help. She was airlifted from the ship and taken to hospital with first-degree sunburns and hypothermia. Once she was in doctors’ care in Faro, her condition improved quickly.
By Monday, just a night after she was rescued, Vicente was back at home and recovering with her parents at her side.