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Wave washes over surfer's dream

From CNN's Mike Chinoy

• Aid groups: How to help
• Gallery: Stories of survival
• Flash: How tsunamis form
• Special report: After the tsunami
Could officials have done more to warn about the giant waves that smashed into several countries?
Sri Lanka

LHOK NGA, Indonesia (CNN) -- One of the more unusual survivors of the Asian tsunami is an Australian drawn to Aceh by its surfing, caught up in the wave that the whole world knows about.

"I saw that thing start to break, and it would be 12 meters (39 foot) high, and it was relative to the trees," David Lines told CNN.

"I'm looking at this big green barrel and it was actually barreling, and part of me was saying that's not a bad looking wave.

"But of course we had to get out, and immediately we got into the car and went out."

Lines -- a surfing fanatic who was born in Canada, educated in Hawaii and now a naturalized Australian -- came to Aceh because of the waves.

He met and married a local woman, Nurma, and built his dream house. On December 26, Lines described how he outdrove the tsunami.

"We had to go toward the wave to get out of our property, through a gate, off of a little lane, through the side, and then out."

"The girls were screaming ... and I'm trying to keep a cool head and hitting the horn and getting out as fast as I can."

Lines describes picking up some people on his way, and when he looked back at the beach for the first time, he saw the wave pushing through the trees.

"It was taller than a man, it was just pushing through, it was yellow and white and stick figures were running in front of it."

When asked what happened to the stick figures, Lines replies: "They're all dead."

Lines' adopted hometown, Lhok Nga, was obliterated.

One week later, Lines' neighbors -- the few who survived -- wept over the ruins.

When Lines returned to look for his house, all he found were the foundations.

"This area was the front room, the TV set was over here," he said, pointing at the remnants.

The waves drove Lines' things hundreds of meters inland. David's wife Nurma lost 17 relatives.

They scoured the rubble for anything, and they don't know what they're going to do.

In the end the foundations are about all that was left, plus a surprise.

"There you go. There's a fin."

Memories of a surfer's dream life washed away by the wave.

"The only other thing I have left is my house keys," he says.

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