Two vacationing sisters who took off from Tybee Island, Georgia, Tuesday on their first-ever paddleboarding experience ended up in Hilton Head, South Carolina, after spending a harrowing eight hours lost at sea.
Cayci and Summer Underwood had just taken off around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when they say the wind picked up and the choppy waters knocked them off their paddleboards.
“The current got really bad and then we thought, you know, this is picking up and there's no way we're going to make it back,” Summer, 21, told ABC News.
As the Tennessee sisters held onto their boards, and kept in sight of each other, the conditions worsened.
“Eventually, the choppiness turned into waves, very big waves,” Cayci, 27, said.
The sisters became separated at one point with the current pushing them, “further and further apart,” Summer said.
The pair managed to find each other and then stuck together for the rest of their eight-hour ordeal, comforting each other through the pain of sunburn and chafing against their paddleboards.
“We just came to realize that there was really nothing we could do,” Cayci said.
The sisters say they saw several shrimping boats as they floated in the sea but none saw them. They ultimately made the lifesaving decision to ditch their paddleboards and swim to shore, even though they had no idea where that shore would be.
"We couldn't see any sight of land or anything,” Summer said.
The Underwoods swam their way to what turned out to be Hilton Head Island’s South Beach, a destination eight miles from their original launch point of Tybee Island.
"There were people on the shore, but we ended up swimming all the way to them,” Cayci recalled.
The sisters were helped by people on shore and taken to a local hospital for treatment. They were treated for shock and exhaustion and the chafing from the paddleboards.
Now back home in Tennessee, the Underwoods said they do not plan to ever paddleboard again but will always retain the bond they forged in the sea.
"Nobody can compete with the bond that we have now,” Cayci said, ”and we've literally fought for our lives together.”