Former college quarterback rescued after being stranded at sea for 12 hours on kayak: VIDEO

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Sunday, March 31, 2024
Ex-college QB rescued after being stranded at sea for 12 hours: VIDEO
A US Coast Guard helicopter rescue for Chris Smelley, found after being stranded at sea for 12 hours, was caught on video in the Gulf of Mexico.

GRAYTON BEACH, Fla. -- Kayaker Chris Smelley was spotted by the U.S. Coast Guard after being stranded at sea for 12 hours with no phone or life jacket.

The dramatic rescue, in the middle of the ocean, was caught on camera.

"I was pretty much in survival mode, just threw my hands into the air and screamed," Smelley said.

The 37-year-old, with one hand on a fishing pole and the other waving for help, was unable to paddle back to land.

Rescue crews in the sky up above geared up before rappelling by rope from a helicopter into the Gulf of Mexico and swimming toward Smelley, who was about 2 miles off the shore of Grayton Beach, Florida.

"It's not often that these things turn out the way this one did. Unfortunately, when someone goes out without a life vest, and, you know, on a kayak, they potentially might come off the kayak and try to swim to shore, and they don't have anything to keep them afloat," said Walton County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Jeremy Fisher.

Smelley, an experienced kayaker and former quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks, had set out on his kayaking trip on Thursday morning. High winds made it impossible for him to get to safety.

"I was still moving backwards, so the wind was just quite too strong," Smelley said.

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Smelley's family reported him missing, prompting that frantic search effort.

"I feel very blessed. And, you know, felt very, I felt covered in prayer and loved and just thankful to God that it that it turned out, with a good outcome," Smelley said.