Former South Carolina QB Chris Smelley Rescued After His Fishing Kayak Gets Dragged 8 Miles Off The Florida Coast


It’s always good to check the weather (and the riptide) if you are planning a fishing expedition out in the ocean.

Former South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley wasn’t attempting to go on an “expedition,” but it ended up being one when his fishing kayak got swept out to sea. He boarded his kayak and entered into the ocean of Grayton Beach, Florida around 8:30 a.m. and his quick fishing trip turned into one that lasted almost all day long.

Smelley spoke to WBRC about how he got swept out further and further into the Gulf of Mexico, over miles from shore, and despite his best efforts, he couldn’t do much about it:

“I was in a big, heavy kayak. And I got out there and right off the shore, the wind was just whipping and a lot stronger than it was at shore. I wish there was a story that a giant shark dragged me out or I was battling a sea monster, but it was really just nature.

It was just the wind. My body was sitting up tall, and I was basically just a big sail. I was giving it everything I could, and there was a long period of time where I was at the mercy of the wind.”

To make matters worse, because the former athlete didn’t expect to be out for very long, he didn’t take a life jacket or his cell phone with him. If things would have gone bad, he would have had no floatation device or cellular device to help.

Thankfully though, Smelley stayed afloat in the kayak and conserved energy. After a couple of hours at sea with no way of getting in touch with the former football player, his wife alerted the authorities, and the Coast Guard launched a search and rescue effort.

When talking about all of the time he spent alone on the ocean, Smelley was asked if he was ever concerned for his well-being, and if he was worried that he couldn’t get the attention of helicopters flying overhead. He said was able to keep his cool for the most part, though his mood did shift when the sun started going down:

“We’re at the beach a lot, and I’ve done a lot of fishing, and I’m real comfortable in the ocean. I wouldn’t say I was necessarily scared, but there was sometimes where, especially as the sun started going down, and I had seen the rescue helicopters fly over me pretty close by a few times but they didn’t see me.

I thought I was going to spend the night in the ocean. So I had just caught a fish and was preparing to clean it to give me some energy to try to keep paddling back in when the rescue helicopter pulled in.”

Just before darkness was about to settle in, a helicopter spotted Chris Smelley, and boats started moving into his location. He was checked by medical personnel, and was shortly after reunited with his family.

The former Gamecock QB, who now works as a high school football coach, sent out an update about his story on his social media later on in the day:

Thank God the story had a happy ending.

You can hear more about Smelley’s scary day in the interview below:

Watch the video of the rescue:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock